“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14).
Colossians 3 is about the life of a child of God. Our life style is compared to the clothes we wear. In verse 8 it says that there are clothes that you have to take off: wrath, anger, malice, slander, and shameful language. In verse 12 and 13 it says your new wardrobe should consist of compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness. And then in verse 14 it says: “and above all this put on love”.
This can be read as: put on love above all else, because that is the most important thing. But even better you can read it as: put on love over all those other garments. Love is the coat that goes over everything. It “binds everything together in perfect harmony”. Love is the bond that holds all those other good traits together.
What a beautiful description that is! Because indeed, if you love each other very much, then it makes sense to take care of each other; to be kind; to be humble; to be meek; to be patient; to endure and to forgive each other. And that is why, when you think about how husband and wife should treat each other in marriage, this is a beautiful verse: “Above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony”.
Various forms of love
Now, to be honest, I’m smuggling a little. Because a much broader concept of love is meant here than just love between a husband and wife. It is about love that we can have for many people. Yet that broad form of love is also very important in marriage. By giving this general form of love exuberantly to each other, the special marital love, the love which focuses on that one man or that one woman, can flourish.
If you live together as two people, you will discover things about each other that you could never have imagined. That is why I want to point out two things that are under the covering of love. Don’t think that love makes those things superfluous. Love enables you to do them, and by doing them your love grows. But realize that they exist separately from love. They are in Colossians 3:13.
Bearing with one another
The first is: “bear with one another”. He does not clean up his clothes. She listens to the wrong music. He has forgotten to do his part of the household chores – again. She keeps nagging at you. He has the wrong political views. She seems to have more fun with her friends than with you. He still hasn’t fixed that lamp. She is late filling in that official paper again.
In marriage you blend together. Two become one. That means all kinds of big and small adjustments in your life. But you remain two people with two opinions, two personalities and two histories. And that means that you don’t do everything in the same way and do not always hold the same opinion. How do you deal with that? Bear with one another.
In marriage you need more tolerance than anywhere else, because you are in such a close relationship with each other. Develop the art of tolerance. On the one hand that means that you don’t have to get excited about how the other does certain things. That is a liberating thought. You don’t have to love everything. You just have to endure it. It means, on the other hand, that you don’t get so frustrated about it, that you blame the other person. Don’t let it weigh so heavily that forgiveness is needed.
Sometimes you are sad about what the other person is doing. That happens in every marriage. Sometimes you are angry about what the other person is doing. That happens in every marriage. But a recipe for a happy marriage is that there is a large area about which you smile, not indifferent but loving, and say, “Well, that’s the way he is. Well, that’s the way she is.” Learn the art of tolerance.
Forgiving each other
But there are also times when you do end up in grief or anger about the words or behavior of the other person. Then you come to the second point: “forgive each other”. Forgiveness is one of the most difficult things in life. Christians have a great advantage: you yourself have received forgiveness of your sins through the Lord Jesus. You know how great it is to receive forgiveness.
That’s why you want the one you love so much to experience forgiveness as well, and you give it. As long as you have something in your heart that you have not yet forgiven the other person, you can never pray again “forgive us our debts, just as we forgive our debtors”. Love expresses itself in forgiveness.
Love is stated here as a command. “And above all these put on love”. Love is an emotion. It happens to you. It can overwhelm you when you look at your husband, your wife. It can happen in the first period of love, and after twenty-five years it can still happen. Give yourself to each other in marriage, and it gets better and better. But love is not just a feeling that happens to you. It is also an assignment. Put on love. Love each other. Do the things that come with love, and notice how your feelings increase.
Marriage is a covenant
One of the things that come with love, is getting married. It is a very concrete step with which you say: I am going to love you for the rest of my life. When you are married, you have made a vow, not an intention. You have made a covenant. There is a question you will never have to deal with for the rest of your life: who do I want to live with? That question has been answered: you have promised allegiance to your husband or your wife.
That gives a great peace to the married couple, but also to the children that God gives them. So entering into marriage is a concrete way to love each other, and then in marriage you have to put on love constantly, which is the bond of perfection.