"So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful." (Colossians 3:12-15)Paul previously wrote that, "if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." (Colossians 3:1-2) Here he begins to describe the things that are above. What is most interesting about this list is the things that are not on it, such as, prayer, meditation, giving, studying the word, fasting, and soul winning. Here, Paul is more concerned with how we treat each other than how faithful we are in certain religious disciplines. The truth is that, at the end of our life, the quality of our life will be judged not by our religious disciplines but by how we related to and treated each other. Jesus gives us a glimpse of the end of the age and the praise that will be rewarded the righteous. "'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me." (Matthew 25:34-36) And when they asked when they did any of these things, He replies, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." (Matthew 25:40) Their entrance into the eternal kingdom was granted them because of how they treated even the least of those around them. Prayer, reading, giving, etc. are all important, but Christianity must transcend our personal lives to reach those around us. Our love for God must find its way to be reflected outward as our love for each other.
No where more so should this love for one another be found than in our gathering together. The Greek term used here for "bond" can also be translated as a joint tie or a ligament. Paul is saying that love is the perfect binding of the various parts within the Body of Christ. We try many things to hold the body together: loyalty to the leadership, fear of leaving, adherence to doctrine and dogma, and even shallow kindness meant only to show others that we are really good people too. However, it is love as Paul just expressed that is the perfect bound of unity.
Not only does love draw us together in the joining of many members into relationships, but love also holds those parts together when times get difficult. Peace is the consequence of love. When we love others then we will seek peace with them and harmony with the body. The Greek word used here for "rule" can also mean to arbitrate or to govern as an umpire. When faced with relational difficulties, Christ's peace can help us to arbitrate, or decide, how to respond and deal with the problem. Paul puts the governing of peace within our hearts in the context of the body to which we are called. We need Christ's peace to govern us because, sometimes, relationships are not always peaceful. While the Body is Christ's Body, it is still made up of individual members that can, at times, rub us the wrong way. When our hearts are full of competition, hurts, suspicions, resentment and the like, such conflict will drive us apart. However, when love rules in our hearts then the peace of Christ is able to mediate any occasional differences and difficulties we may have with other members in the body.
We are the ones who get to choose what fills our heart. We may choose the things of the Earth or the things from above. However, what we choose will greatly determine the relationships we have and our participation within Christ Body.