Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:2–5; 9–11)
Sadly, often in church life we fight battles with each other, sister against sister; brother against brother. Perhaps we think that we hold the whole truth and they fall short. Or a difference of opinion over a point of doctrine becomes the opening clash of a long and drawn-out war, which leaves lives bruised and relationships impaired. Or a matter of personality morphs into a heated battle that remains long in the memory of those involved.
As the wife of a vicar, I’ve witnessed these spats between siblings, sometimes being wounded in the process. I don’t count myself as an authority on conflict resolution; nor do I claim to hold an infallible grasp on Truth. But we can see a way forward in our church family life through Paul’s letter to the Colossians. As we live out our redeemed lives, Christ is all and is in all. We can take off the old clothes, those old rags that hold the memory of conflict, and put on the clothes of Christ – compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love.
Wearing his garments, we are more able to live in harmony and peace with our sisters and brothers, especially if we remember that Christ sacrificed himself for them, as much as for us. As we live out of our new self, we can then move forward in unity, being freed from infighting and enabled to forgive as we seek to love and serve others and God.
For reflection: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24–25).