Colossians 3:12-14 is a beautiful and inspiring and totally impossible sort of scripture. On a good day, it leaves you encouraged and empowered to go out and be awesome. But on a hard day- and there are way more hard days than good days- it is a long list of all the ways you have failed to measure up to God’s standard of behaviour for those who are Christians.
That is the problem with religion. It relies over and over on our own capabilities for behaviour modification to please God, and so little on the work already done on our behalf.
I think for those of us who are Christians, we often feel like a fraud. Like the old story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, where the proud Emperor parades around town completely naked before a little boy has the courage to tell him that his “new clothes” are in fact a sham and he’s completely exposed.
But this is not the way of Jesus and what he does in the life of those who put their trust in him for a completely new life.
If we read the verses just prior to Colossians 3:12 we see that it says, “Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete… From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.” (Colossians 3:10-11 in The Message)
Notice it is saying that this new wardrobe we are wearing is Jesus’ very own clothing. We do not put on something heavy or ill-fitting or burdensome. Rather, we put on the love, compassion, humility, and forgiveness of Christ himself. This all grace. Only grace.
Of course in our own strength we can never measure up to the fashion statement of verses 12-14. That is entirely the point that the author of Colossians is trying to get across. In Jesus Christ we are a new creation, and every day we clothe ourselves in the grace, character, and power of Christ through the Holy Spirit to live a new life that looks more and more like Jesus. Until we see him face to face, we will not fully be like him (1 John 3:2).
Until then we declare our constant need for him to transform us from the inside out, to clothe us in his own “brand label”, and we get our grace on day by day.