Above all things, put on love


(Col. 3 : 12–16)
The cycle of church feast days begins with the New Year. With the beginning of the New Year, the Church wants us to begin living a better and more righteous life than before, if have not done so already. This is why  epistle speaks to us about good Christian behavior.

This period in human history into which we have been born in order to live our days, is a time of crudeness, rudeness and undisguised vulgarity. Western culture, especially America’ Hollywood subculture, seems to encourage people to show crudeness and vulgarity. Everything has been stripped down to reveal the dimensions of the human body. Clothes are not there to conceal but to reveal and to emphasize. Qualities such as mercy, kindness, humility and patience are considered weaknesses.

Western man is very proud, as is the entire western civilization. America is proud and arrogant, a quality that precedes destruction, as the Holy Scripture tells us: “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).
Politeness and good behavior is not something we see everyday any more. You will rarely see a man pulling out a chair for a lady, opening a door for her, pouring her a drink or helping her into her coat. Men don’t give up their seats on buses to the “fair sex” any more.

Perhaps women themselves are also to blame for this. We see them competing with men in performing the hardest physical labors like driving heavy trucks for long distances and proving their “equality” by doing so. One wonders if there is any point in showing gentlemanly behavior or if it will be correctly understood. There is an anecdote about one of our parishioners, a former army officer of the “old school” who, after many years spent abroad, went to visit Belgrade for the first time. He was riding in a streetcar when a young lady got on and he, as he had always done, rose to offer her his seat, to which she said to him, “You must be from before the war!” The way things are now, very soon people will be asking the few remaining gentlemen what planet they have flown in from.

In Pauls epistle we heard him advice on how to dress in a God-pleasing manner. The kind of attire that the Apostle recommends is indestructible and timeless; it is a fashion trend that lasts for eternity. “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering” (Col. 3:12). Without this attire we cannot appear before God. Without these white garments, which are our good works, we are ill-bred and naked. Brands such as Armani and Dior are worthless in the eyes of the Lord. Dressed in these expensive “tatters” we can still be naked before God. And all other things that we have collected in our wardrobe over the years, they all worthless before God. “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked – I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire , that you may be rich; and white garments that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed” (Rev. 3:17-18).

We often judge people by the uniform they wear. It has been said, clothes do not make the man. This is true, but Mark Twain’s quote that clothes do, indeed, make the man is also true. “Naked people have little or no influence on society,” he said.

Christians are faced with the question whether they are clad in the white garments of Christian virtues and whether they are recognizable in them. Do others see God in us? Christians ought to be the “light of the world” (Mt. 5:14). In order to shine with the light of God, we must be tuned in to God, immersed in Him, deified. If you want others to see Christ in you, you must show the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:23). “Let your gentleness be known to all men,” says the holy Apostle (Phil. 4:5).

Most Serbs, believing or unbelieving, are unanimous in their hatred of the US president Bill Clinton. It’s true that he has brought us a lot of misfortune and is the reason why many families are in mourning. However, I was amazed when I read this statement of his: “I have been in politics for so long that I am used to criticism and antagonism. However, I have not been prepared for the hatred that came from Christians. Why are Christians so filled with hatred?”

If our lifestyle should reflect our faith, then we must not hate anyone, even if they are liars and evildoers such as Clinton and the likes of him. Our readiness to forgive and our patience should last longer than a count to ten. However, we often don’t even count to three before returning evil with an even greater evil. “The Lord is at hand,” St. Paul warns us (Phil. 4:5). Knowing this, let us allow Him, who is more powerful than us, to deal justice.

We must forgive others, because the Lord forgives us (Eph. 4:32). We must forgive also for our own sake, because by bitterness and, God forbid, hatred, we poison our souls and bring a lot of damage to ourselves. A hand that is healthy, but that has been cramped for a long time, will eventually become afflicted. I know that Clinton is a bother to us, but I am not so sure if Clinton himself is at all bothered by the outpour of lava of Serbian hatred for him.

God created us as social beings. He measures us according to our relationships with others whom He has put on our life’s path. Our knowledge of theology and our empty prayers will not justify us before the Lord if we have not treated others as our brothers and sisters in the Lord. There is a song that says, “To live above with the saints we love, oh that would be glory, but to live below with the saints we know, well – that’s another story.”

“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection,” says the holy Apostle (Col.3:14). “I am patient with you, because I love you and want to forgive you. I am kind to you, for I love you and want to help you. I do not envy you for what you have and the talents you have been given, for I love you and want you to have the best. I do not talk about my accomplishments, for I love you and want to hear about yours. I am not proud, for I love you and want you to shine before me. I am not rough, for I love you and I care about your feelings. I am not egoistical, for I love you and want to satisfy your needs. I do not get angry with you easily, because I love you and want to overlook your mistakes. I do not keep track of your mistakes, because I love you; love covers many sins” (Jerry Bridges, Pursuit of Holiness).

Beginning with this New Year from now on let all bitterness, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, as well as all malice. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:31–32).