The Tone of Our Life

Sam Petitfils

"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.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.  Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanksto God the Father through him."  Colossians 3:12-17

A few years ago, in my reading of the gospels, I began to take note of Jesus’ tone.  Until then, I was most interested in what He said, but ignoring how He said it.  For example, after he denied Jesus, Peter embarked on what he thought was a life of fishing.  But Jesus met him by the Sea of Tiberias (see John 21:1-23), and simply re-commissioned Peter to feed His sheep.  Jesus did not reproach Peter for his denial and momentary cowardice, but instead encouraged him and enlisted him once again in the service of God.  As I read this, I thought “how remarkably consistent of Jesus.”  This was how He always acted, and then I pondered how I stacked up against Jesus’ powerful example.  I knew I was to follow Jesus as my example (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6).

In the Colossian passage above, Paul addresses the tone of our life in church, family, and society.  Note particularly verse 12, where he commands us to “clothe” ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  He doesn’t tell us where to apply this, simply because he wants us to apply it everywhere, at home, work, during recreation, and anywhere we go.  As I mentioned in a previous devotion, God tends to simplify things.  If we pay close attention to how we treat others, many other things fall into place.  Imagine what our homes would look like if we treated one another with respect, gentleness and love. What if we quickly forgave offences, as Paul encourages us to do in 3:13?  Things would certainly change, wouldn’t they?

Many people run about the landscape looking for ways to do good to their fellow man.  This, of course, is very good and is to be commended.  But I’ve known some people who run others over in the process, have short tempers, and can’t seem to control their tongues.  Paul addresses the manner of tone in the present passage, showing us “a better way” (1 Corinthians 12:31).

I recall as a young boy my first experience on a little league baseball team.  The coach worked us hard and improved our overall game, but at what price?  He railed against us when we committed errors, slammed bats against the backstop when he got upset, yelled at us and even belittled us when we failed to perform to his expectations.  Year later, I realized that he may have helped me to develop a few skills, but I’m glad I didn’t follow his example as a human being.  He didn’t set the proper tone for the team.  By the way, we didn’t do that well in the standings!

We need to pay as much attention to our demeanors and tempers as we do our agendas.  Let’s pause to remember the words of Paul in Colossians 3, and to the example set by the Lord Jesus.  He was truly gentle and humble in heart  (Matthew 11:29).


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