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 (Manna 72: Love—the Bond of Perfection)
Love Binds Us Together in Perfect Harmony
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Love Binds Us Together in Perfect Harmony

Based on a sermon by Rong-Yu Ho—Singapore

Paul wrote his Epistle to the Colossians to refute the diverse heresies that had crept into the young church of Colossae. A key theme of this epistle is thus the sharp distinction between the supremacy of Christ (cf. Col 1:15–20) and the futility of human philosophies and of self-imposed religious rituals (cf. Col 2:16–20). In Colossians 3–4, the apostle sets out how we can live a more meaningful and sublime life.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.
But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

(Col 3:12-17)

According to Paul, we—the holy and beloved chosen people of God—must clothe ourselves with perfection and the willingness to forgive others. As the one body of Christ, we ought to treat each other as part of the same family. This can only be achieved through love for each other (Jn 13:34–35). Christian love should not merely be an ideal captured in beautiful but ultimately empty prose. Instead, we must realize and demonstrate love in everyday life in emulation of Jesus Christ; we must strive to be a disciple of love.

What does it take to have Christ’s perfect love?


First of all, we need to have the correct mindset. Paul tells us that God has specially chosen us to be His holy and beloved people. Though we were unworthy, God has approved us (cf. 1 Thess 2). Henceforth, we ought to live up to God’s expectations of us, which is to be different from the world. Colossians 3:12–13 lists ten different virtues that would make us different from the world. Paul encourages us to “put on” these virtues as if we were putting on clothes. Originally, these clothes did not belong to us, but now that we have put them on, they have become ours.

A critical part of our new garments is love, the bond of perfection. Traditionally, the Jews wear long robes with belts. Without the latter, the loose-fitting garments may make the wearer look unkempt. Analogously, we have to clothe ourselves with virtue and gird our waists with the belt of love. Girded thus, we have strength to walk in God’s word and work for Him.

However, when we practice love, we should “do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Col 3:23). The purpose of our good deeds and virtues is to please the Lord, rather than to garner men’s praise. Things done willingly are sincere and proactive demonstrations of love. Therefore, the starting point of perfect love must be the right attitude of love—we are determined to love willingly because God first loved us, and He wants us to love others; we serve God and help man willingly because this is the conduct that will earn us God’s approval and praise.


Just As Christ Forgave Us

… bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (Col 3:13)

Second, love entails mutual forgiveness. It may be relatively easy to overlook and forgive a minor hurt, but as Christians, the bar is set even higher for us. Just as the Lord has forgiven us, we should forgive each other willingly and wholeheartedly. The word “complaint” (Greek: μομφήν [momphēn]) occurs in no other part of the Bible except for Colossians 3:13. It refers to a quarrel or an incident that has caused much discontentment or grumbling. Such conflicts among men are often the result of misunderstanding or a lack of mutual understanding.

Regardless of the reasons for our conflicts, we should always strive to bear with one another and forgive others if they have hurt us. We need to remember how often God has already forgiven us, and how He has taught His disciples to forgive others seventy times seven. It does not mean that we literally keep count of the number of times we have shown forgiveness. Instead, this number symbolizes complete forgiveness where we neither harbor a grudge against those who have offended us nor seek revenge. On the cross, Jesus epitomized such complete and unconditional forgiveness, praying for those who had crucified Him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Lk 23:34).

Conflicts or disputes are inevitable in any family, including the large family in Christ, the church. The closeness within the family may mean that we are even more vulnerable to hurt in the same way that our teeth occasionally and accidentally bite our lips or tongue. In addition, when wounds are inflicted by the people closest to us, they take even longer to heal, causing us much discomfort. But endure we must, or else the family will be ripped apart. Endurance does not mean grudging tolerance, where we do not actively seek revenge but cannot bring ourselves to be on speaking terms with those who have offended us. True forgiveness is a sincere bearing with our brothers and sisters in the Lord with the love of Christ.

Among the most difficult problems to solve within the church are disagreements among the believers. Misunderstandings or mutual complaints arise because everyone thinks that he or she is right. And when everyone clings stubbornly to their stand, problems will never be solved. Only unconditional love and forgiveness such as that shown by Jesus will heal existing wounds, removing the threat to the harmony within the church. Therefore, forgiveness is a very important expression of love and a prerequisite for church unity.

Let God Be Our Umpire

But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. (Col 3:14–15)

The peace of God refers to the unity that we have in the Lord. With such unity, there is both peace with men as well peace with God. In order to enjoy such peace, we must have Christ as our Lord.

Apostle Paul urges believers to allow the peace of God to rule in their hearts. The verb “rule” (Greek: βραβευέτω [brabeuetō]) means “to umpire.” In competitive sports, the umpire’s role is to ensure that the players follow the rules. For some sports, the umpire may even have to decide which competitors to award points to. Not surprisingly, some competitors blame their loss on biased umpiring. So there is often tremendous pressure on the umpire. On the other hand, it is understandable why the competitors are so particular about umpiring standards. Very often, the difference of one point can determine whether someone will receive the gold or the silver medal.

Paul tells us that we need to have Christ as our umpire and allow Him to rule over us. We need to have no qualms about this umpire, for He is just, omniscient, and ever-present. Whether we meet with complaints, difficulties, or setbacks, we can and should ask the Lord to arbitrate for us. However, we must also be ready to accept the Lord’s judgment, for His decisions are always right (Deut 32:4).

As human beings, we are wont to think we are always right (Prov 16:2; 21:2). However, when we are wrong, we must accept the ruling of the Divine Umpire. This is the only way to obtain peace between God and man as well as unity within the church. In worldly tournaments, we occasionally see players who refuse to accept the umpires’ call, losing their temper on court or in the field. Some stomp off angrily, others verbally abuse or even physically assault the umpires. When such things happen, the entire game or competition will be marred, and even the results may be compromised. Similarly, no true believer who loves the household of God would want to see his brethren seeking arbitration from secular authorities against each other (cf. 1 Cor 6:1–7). Therefore, in the church, instead of insisting that we are right, we need to ask God to be our Lord and umpire. Only in this way will God’s peace come into our lives, for He is the only righteous judge.


Be thankful. (Col 3:15)

The third aspect of perfect love is thanksgiving. In His love, God has given us an abundance of spiritual and material blessings. We ought to be perpetually filled with gratitude toward Him (cf. Ps 118, 136; 1 Thess 5:16–18). However, without love, we will not feel grateful to God. Instead, we will only see the adversities that befall us and constantly grumble about our poor lot in life.

In order to become a more thankful person, we need to put down all our burdens, lay aside murmuring and unhappiness, and submit to the Lord. Once we have put aside these encumbrances, we will realize that the Lord is actually training us through these adversities; strengthening our character and faith, making us more thankful people. Once we have learned how to be thankful to God, our hearts will change. Instead of focusing myopically on our suffering and lamenting our situation in self-pity, we will be able to perceive the Lord’s great mercy upon us and acknowledge that all things, whether good or bad, come from Him (Job 1:21).

Remain Humble

For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Cor 4:7)

The believers at Corinth had a variety of talents. Many of them were well-educated and enjoyed a certain status in society. However, they could not clearly see that they had received all these things from God. Instead, their God-given gifts became a source of comparison, dispute, and eventually division in the church. Therefore, Apostle Paul encouraged the Corinthians to learn from him and Apollos “not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other” (1 Cor 4:6).

When man gains wisdom or status, his perspective often changes. He may compare himself with others or even start despising those with less knowledge, wealth, or position. He may forget that his achievements are the result of the Lord’s blessings and not entirely his own effort. He may believe more in himself than in Jesus. Pride and self-righteousness grow in his heart, and these can easily destroy the church’s unity and fellowship.

Therefore, Paul reminds us to have a heart of thanksgiving. We must learn how to be thankful to the Lord for all His blessings, including the talents that we have been given to serve Him. We must also thank God for all the setbacks and conflicts in our lives. It is only when we meet with adversity that we realize how difficult it is to practice the teachings in the Bible. As we learn to be more thankful, we will become more humble, forbearing, and loving towards others. Therefore, a heart of thanksgiving also helps us to increase in love.


Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly …. (Col 3:16)

Last but not least, we can only grow in true love for God and man if we allow God’s word to dwell in us. We must not have a sojourner attitude towards the word of God —cursorily “visiting” the word of God once or twice a week in church. Instead, we should constantly study God’s word and allow it to fill our hearts. This has become even more pressing in the selfish world we live in today; only the truth can help us to live a life of love. When God’s word dwells in us, it will touch and motivate us to practice love as well as to abound in works of love, even when the world does not reciprocate with love.

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father. (Col 3:17)

Since we rely on the name of the Lord, we are in actual fact representing the Lord Jesus. Hence, all our words and actions must bring glory to the Lord instead of shaming Him. Once others can see Jesus in our conduct and our love, Christ and His word truly  live in us.


Love can overcome all hurt and prejudice. In our church life, we can practice love by forgiving others just as Christ forgave us, allowing Christ to be our umpire, and giving thanks to God. Doing these allows us to live in peace and harmony with our brothers and sisters. In addition, God’s word must be planted deep in our hearts so that we can practice His love in our daily lives and reflect the image of Christ. Since we have been chosen, we must strive together to build up the body of the Lord, making it one through the perfect bond of love.

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Author: Rong-Yu Ho