Clothing is obviously a big part of how we present ourselves to others – it is often the first thing that people see. We recognize people by their uniforms – here is a policeman, here is the mailman, she must be the waitress, this person knows his way around a engine. Uniforms are a simple way to communicate, externally, what we are internally. In other words, the police uniform shows that a person has been given a certain authority. A lifeguard wears the uniform, which means (hopefully) that they know what to do in an emergency.
But even beyond uniforms, our clothing communicates. We all know what a new outfit does to how we feel about ourselves. New shoes can do a lot more for a person than would seem possible. My kids do exactly what I remember doing as a child, they take off running in them- it makes them feel faster, able to jump higher – simply because they feel new. We stand taller, think about ourselves less. And of course, our clothing sometimes inspires conversation. “Where did you get that necklace?!”, or “I have been looking for a coat like that for years – where is it from?” Or the uncertain compliment of, “Did you make that yourself?”
Now the reason that I bring this up is that I want you to have it in mind when we read these verses (and the many others like it in Scripture).
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.
Putting these things on is not something that remains between us and God. This is a public display on the outside of what we are on the inside. We have been saved! We are holy! We are loved! That is what we are on the inside. It is what qualifies us, and compels us to wear these things on the outside.
Now what kind of effect does putting these things on have? What happens when we walk around the world dressed in the tender mercies of Christ towards us? What happens when humility and meekness and kindness adorn us? What does it mean?
Well, one thing that is means to put these things on is to put them on in a way that is visible. It is not enough to be kind occasionally on the inside. Kindness should be as visible as a shirt is. Mercy, long-suffering, humility, forgiveness. These are garments that are of great value. It isn’t just God telling us to put these things on so that we might be comfortable, or put them on so that we won’t be naked, or put them on so that we will be warm. Those things might be true, but it isn’t the whole truth.
These things are profoundly evangelistic. The world cannot help but see what we are wearing.
“Where did you get that?” From God the Father. “How can I get one?” Through the death of His Son. “I have been looking for forgiveness for years, and I didn’t think you could get it anymore.” You can. “That is probably too expensive for me.” It has already been bought for you.
It is easy to want to put these things on in a way that wouldn’t be so visible to anyone. Something that we could get out sometime if we needed encouragement. But these things are not so small that we can make them into a tiny charm bracelet – a little something that only we know the meaning of. The truth is that we have been called to wear the most expensive, exquisite, mind boggling garments as our uniform, and we are to wear them in a way that invites the world to join us.