Drawing our discussion on Colossians 3, peace and conflict to a close, we want to discuss the last few verses in this section of the chapter. We have seen that our earthly cravings fuel our conflicts. Our negative heart responses of anger and malice add fuel to the fire. But this kind of thing is not what we have been saved for. These are elements of our old self; that which we are to put to death. Christ has saved us and given us a new self. The characteristics of the new self are things like compassion, kindness and patience. The new self chooses to bear with one another and pursues forgiveness when offenses happen.
What else does Paul say about peace and conflict in this chapter? First in verse 14, we discover the centrality of love. “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Col. 3:14, ESV) What ultimately preserves peace in the midst of conflict is love. Love stands behind our ability to put to death the things that drive conflict. Love empowers our ability to resist sinful actions and words, tear down walls of separation, bear with one another and forgiven one another. Love empowers us to wait for the other person without judgment. Love empowers us to walk out forgiveness when we have sinned or been sinned against. Love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Pet. 4:8) Love is the crowning grace of the Christian. As God’s love invades our hearts and transforms our lives, it will become more and more evident in our actions and words.
Paul continues in Colossians 3:15-17:
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called on one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (ESV)
Is all is just wishful thinking? Can things like this be reality in our lives and our churches? Life is a complicated mess. My life does not look like this, and I suspect yours does not either. But this is a picture of the transformation Christ is achieving in us. Christ’s peace can indeed rule in our hearts. Christ can give us a thankful heart. This happens when the word of Christ dwells in us richly, penetrating every part of our life. The deeper the gospel penetrates our hearts, the more the blessings like redemption and reconciliation and grace and the forgiveness of Christ become a reality in our life, the more the peace of Christ will govern and the more that everything we do, in name and deed, be done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanks to Andy Farmer for guiding my thoughts and ruminations on this topic. His words and thoughts are often much more powerful than mine. I encourage you to pick up a copy of his book, Real Peace: What we Long for and Where to Find It (Crossway Publishers) for a gracious, pastoral and most importantly, biblical approach to this wonderful blessing of peace.