The Joy of Covenant Community
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. 14 Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. — Colossians 3:12-17
What comes to your mind when you think of the church? Ask people that question, and you will receive various responses. For me, a recent conversation at the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit where I work stands out. Nurses usually work in groups of three or four, and over the course of a 12-hour shift we have moments where we can talk and get to know one another.
During one of these breaks, I asked my colleague about her opinion of the church. She didn’t shy away from expressing her opinion, saying she doesn’t believe in God because everyone in the church is a hypocrite. She said she has friends who “go to church” whose behavior during the week doesn’t line up with what they profess on Sunday. I was heartbroken to hear this all-too-common response.
Sadly, many share her view of the church. Perhaps they have been hurt by gossip or have been betrayed by a church member. Perhaps the moral failure of a pastor has tainted their view of religion. For others, church is an obligation and duty with little joy.
On the opposite end of this spectrum are those who love church and are thrilled to be in a local congregation. They willingly sacrifice to be part of this community, and it is one of their greatest delights to gather together and worship. For them, walking through life severed from a worshipping community is unbearable.
As I have grown up in the church, the Lord has revealed more and more to me how precious the body of Christ is. When I interned under worship leader Bob Kauflin, he would always say, “We often look out on our congregation and see normal people, nothing special. But God sees His treasured possession. These are the people He purchased with the blood of His own Son (Acts 20:28). They’re precious in His sight. May they be precious in ours.”
The church is the beautiful bride of Christ for whom Christ laid His life down. Are we demonstrating mercy and compassion to others? Are we kind? Are we ridding ourselves of pride and arrogance, not desiring to exalt ourselves over others? Are we patient? We need to “put these on” as the covenant community of believers.
However, we are prone to failure. Paul knew this, and he told the believers they must bear with one another and forgive as Christ forgives. One seminary professor said, “No one has ever sinned against us more than we have sinned against Christ Himself.” We as a church can’t do this apart from Christ. Is the gospel transforming every aspect of your heart and your life? Is the world seeing Christ when they look at your church?
We have everything to be thankful for! May we be saturated with the gospel and with thankfulness in our hearts to our Redeemer, Savior and King. May the Lord destroy any sense of entitlement we might have. May we view everyone and everything in this life as a gift from God. Because of Christ, we can be compassionate and kind. Because of Christ, we can love. Because of Christ, we can forgive one another. Because of Christ, we can have unity and peace. Because of Christ and His Word, we can respond in song with joy. Because of Christ and the gospel, we can walk in thanksgiving.