Selfish, earthly cravings are the things that spark conflict. They are like fuel poured on a fire. These cravings, and the attitudes that come from them, can do tremendous harm in our lives and the lives of others. As we have seen, these cravings were part of our old life, and while they do not have the power they once had, they still exert far too much influence in our lives and relationships. As Colossians 3 reminds us, these are things in our life we must put off. But what is there to replace them?
As we continue our discussion about relational peace and the conflict we all experience in relationships at times, we come to Colossians 3:12. It says:
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience… (ESV)
In this verse, Paul lists a number of things that, rather than throw fuel on the fire of conflict, actually work to suppress the conflict. As we recognize that there are things belonging to our old life that we must put off, we also must recognize that there are characteristics that are part of our new life in Christ that God wants to cultivate in us.
Andy Farmer, in his book Real Peace: What we Long For and Where to Get It, does a wonderful job defining these characteristics for us. Listen to what he has to say:
“Compassion is the disposition of a heart toward mercy. Mercy causes us to look for some way to extend grave to a person who might do something that could tempt us into conflict. Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit that will not respond to evil with evil, but will look to do good in whatever situation we encounter. Humility is a profound awareness of our own weakness and unworthiness before God that makes it difficult for us to exert our demands or personal sense of “rightness” on others. Meekness is a gentleness that is careful in all circumstances to not affect others in a negative way, or tempt them in their weaknesses. Patience is the capacity to absorb the wrongs of others against us without retaliation.” (Andy Farmer, Real Peace, pg. 135-6)
Each of these things are characteristics of God. They are gifts of grace. They are reflections of the new self, the transforming work of God in us. God desires to cultivate these characteristics in us. He is remaking us into the image of his Son. And He desires to see us overflow in the very things that suppress conflict, rather than the kind of things that enhance it.