Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering (Colossians 3:12, nkjv).
How do you expect you’d be received if you were to come to God, admitting need, admitting failure, admitting you haven’t lived in a way you’re proud of? Whatever you might expect, here’s what you’d get: You’d be loved and accepted. In fact, you’d be rejoiced over.
Contrite people seeking God’s help to change are always welcomed by Him—never rejected.
The Lord accepts us as we are changing. But the people in your own life who frustrate you with their struggles—is that what they can expect from you? Do they know you’ll accept them as they change? Or must they instead earn your love if they expect to receive it? Do you make them prove something first? Are they on the outs with you until they can make a watertight case for why you should let them back in?
The truth is, all of us remain in the process of changing. And among the changes that would look best on us, as we deal with people whose patterns of behavior can be the hardest to tolerate, is what the Bible actually describes as a change of clothes—these choice characteristics of Christ that we can choose to “put on”:
“Tender mercies.” The original term here, sometimes translated “compassionate hearts,” is indeed representative of our internal organs—the most tender, vulnerable parts of ourselves. When others are experiencing the fallout of poor decisions, even if they’re not responding as you wish, your first inclination needs to be compassion for what they’re suffering, not judgment for why they’re suffering it. Being able to feel the pain of others, deep within yourself, will do more to help them change than forcing them to do it while climbing over your cold, distant lack of concern.
“Kindness.” When you see something in someone that immediately annoys you, kindness is what pushes that reaction down. It helps bring into reasonable balance your harsh, original opinion of the situation. Kindness is a grace that pervades your entire being, mellowing whatever hardened reflex first comes to mind.
“Humility.” Interestingly, the idea generated by the word for humility was a negative one in ancient literature; only in the Bible is the term seen as positive. To put on humility means refusing to poison a relationship with self. Humility is others-focused—the exact opposite of self-love. It’s refusing to permit your own agenda or interests to overpower how you treat someone.
“Meekness.” Others’ lack of humility is sometimes what’s to blame for creating the strife you feel in relationship with them. But meekness (also translated “gentleness”) means being willing to suffer the burdens their sin may impose, with a readiness to receive injury rather than inflict it.
“Longsuffering.” To be longsuffering (or “patient”) is to not be irritable, easily provoked, or driven to strike back. Many of your interactions with others—even at such close range as the people within your house or members of your extended family—can be strained, difficult, and disappointing, with no guarantee of getting a whole lot better. But your patience with these dear ones will go far in brightening the promise of better days ahead.
For not only are they in need of change, so are we. We’re all marking different levels of progress in our lives. So don’t make them need to get there (to an arbitrary rung of performance) to be here (assured of your love and companionship). Let them know through your words, actions, responses, and reactions that you will accept them as they change.
Heavenly Father, thank You for treating me with such tender mercy and kindness. Thank You not only for knowing everything about me, but also for using this intimate knowledge of my fickleness and failure not to condemn, but to exercise such extreme patience with me. In all my dealings with others, help me care more about them than about myself, and help me always remember my own inescapable dependence on Your grace. In Jesus’ name, amen.