We are called to clothe ourselves with love.
All month in this series, Won't You Be My Neighbor, we've been exploring what the Bible has to say about spiritual family - the kind of welcoming, compassionate, and encouraging community we are called to become as the Church.
We've dreamt together about what Grace Church could be in the midst of a broken world.
Today, as we bring this series to a close, we are going to look at the role you and I can play to help make that happen.
Don't lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn't matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
The Church, from the very beginning, was meant to be a community which stood out from the world around it, which offered people a different vision than their cultures of hatred and isolation.
What we wear communicates a lot about our identity. Who we are.
When Fred Rogers put on his cardigan, it wasn't a fashion statement. It was an identity. He was saying, ""I'm a safe person to be around.""
The same thing is true for us in a spiritual sense.
Although we may have different genders or ethnicities or economic classes, when we clothe ourselves with Jesus, we're showing the world our spiritual identity. Your spiritual clothing is an outward-facing symbol of who you choose to be.
So what does Paul want us to clothe ourselves with? What does he want us to choose?
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.&#38;nbsp;
This is Paul's big idea.
Love, in Paul's mind, is at the core of everything. It' what holds the Church together. True spiritual community begins and ends with love.
But love, here, is not just affection. Not just warm fuzzy feelings. No. In Paul's writings, the idea of love is entirely others-focused and self-giving. It's the kind of love which is exemplified by Jesus on the cross, who loved us so much he gave his life for us.
Virtues we are called to follow:
1. Seeing others with the emotion of tenderhearted mercy
2. Acting with kindness towards another's needs
3. In humility considering others more important than yourself
4. Approaching other people's concerns with a posture of gentleness
5. And practicing patience when those around us mess up
Imagine if Grace Church focused on becoming a community of self-giving love. Imagine how much we would shine to those around us.