Christ came to make God a Father to us. In Christ, God says to us, “You are mine.” What a happy thought to think of God as your Father. If God is your Father, your soul is safe. It is hidden in the promises, in the wounds of Christ and the decrees of God. Those in Christ are the beloved of God. Therefore, when we come to Christ, God forms us into the image of Christ.

We have seen in Colossians this is an ongoing, progressive work in the Christian. The Christian life is built on the foundation of Christ dying for our sins to make us right with God. As those redeemed by God, we are to put to death the sin that remains in us, and cultivate the virtues that reflect God’s image. In verses 12-13, Paul said these include compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and a forgiving spirit. 

Now Paul teaches us that love is the crowning virtue that holds all the others together: “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Paul gives us a couple of word pictures to help us apply love in our lives.

He says “put on” love. The language is an illustration of putting on clothes. In those days, people didn’t have many garments. The best garment was the outer garment. Men of rank or social status were generally distinguished by their outer garment. The outer garment was valuable to every person. You were not dressed properly without it.

So Paul says as a Christian, this is how you dress. Love is your clothing and all the other virtues are different colors in the garment. Jacob, because of deep fatherly love, painstakingly made a coat of many colors for Joseph. When Joseph wore it, it was a reflection of his father’s love. So too God’s Spirit in the Christian is a work of love, adorning us with a special coat of love.

Love is inseparable from the Christian life because love is what life is. The apostle John writes: “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. Anyone who does not love doesn’t know God because God is love.”

We love that which we set our affection on. True love sets it’s affection on God for God’s sake, and loves our neighbor for God’s sake. In love, we are taken up with loving God as he is. The Christian is no longer to love the world; which is the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life. 

Paul also says love “binds everything together.” Love works toward perfection. The word “binds” is used of fetters or chains; or sometimes for sinews connecting parts of the body. To be “bound” by the chains of love is to be free. Nothing we do is virtuous if love is not attached to it. It may be outwardly good, but love is the marrow of the act.

Paul teaches us this in his great chapter on love in 1st Corinthians 13: “If I speak with tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging symbol. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned but have not love, I gain nothing.”

It’s a frightening thing to think of someone who gave away all he had, or was willing to die in the name of the Lord, doing it all for vain motives. But Paul is teaching Christians the centrality of love in the Christian life. Many Christians in Corinth lacked love and needed to repent.

How do we gain love, or grow in love? Ironically, in the Christian life our growth often stems from confessing and grieving over that which we lack or see our paucity in. The sinner who could not even look to heaven, but said, “God have mercy on me a sinner,” went home justified.

Those in Christ, who become aware of their scarcity of love and confess it to the Lord, are those the Spirit of the Lord grows love in. The poor in spirit inherit the kingdom of heaven. And love springs from fixing our gaze upon Christ, who gave himself for us. There is no conflict in asking for and putting on love. They are both driven by looking to Christ.