Sunday, December 15, 2013

Check Your Bowels

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.  Colossians 3:12-13  KJV
I expect right about now you are wondering just what in the world the title of this blog means, and if I am serious about what I am asking you to do?  To be truthful, the first thing I wanted you to do was laugh, yet after that I think we should all look closer to see what exactly God wants from us in this instruction from Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

Although most of you have noticed by now that I normally teach from the New King James Version of the Bible, you should know I read and study from many different translations in order to be sure I understand exactly what is being said.  Doing that, at times, produces some rather interesting ideas such as the one I want to discuss this morning which starts with the word “bowels”.
Without knowing it, you are probably more familiar with this concept than you initially imagine.  In the ancient world, most believed that our deepest emotions came from our “bowels”, or if it makes more sense, our “gut”.  I think most of us have heard or even used the expression “gut feeling” when referring to making a decision or expressing an opinion about something we believe to be important.  The Greek word used here to refer to the bowels is splagchno which translated means; bowels, intestines, (the heart, lungs, liver, etc.) the bowels were regarded as the seat of the more violent passions, such as anger and love; but by the Hebrews as the seat of the tenderer affections, esp. kindness, benevolence, compassion; hence our heart (tender mercies, affections, etc.) a heart in which mercy resides.

Now does this concept begin to make more sense?  As believers, we are expected to be different than the world around us, and Paul tells us here that the first step in that process is to change our “gut” by putting on “bowels of mercies”.  He explains it by comparing the process to our daily ritual of putting on our clothes before we appear in public.  The word Paul uses here is endyƍ, which literally means to put on your clothes.  I am sure most of us spend more than a little time every morning deciding exactly what we are going to wear, and making sure that we look presentable before we appear in public.  Paul is basically saying here that as believers, “the elect of God”, we are to put on these mercies every day just as we do our clothes.
Since most if not all of us would never consider going outside of our homes without our clothes on, does it not make sense that as believers we should never go out without putting on our “mercies”?  Even more important is the idea that we need to put these mercies on as they are not a “natural” part of our makeup.  Many of us might expect that by making the decision to follow Christ, these qualities might somehow become our “natural” state, but it would appear that it doesn’t work quite that way.  Many times in Paul’s letters to the churches he teaches us that we need to make the effort to change our natural man into a godly man.  In fact, just a few verses before this passage Paul tells us this;

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,  Colossians 3:8-10  NKJV
Since this doesn’t appear to be a “suggestion” but rather more like a “commandment”, why don’t we take a closer look at what we are expected to wear in the world around us.

Compassion…the bowels of mercies simply means that we should look at everyone we meet with the same compassion God feels for us, which is basically with a heart of pity and sympathy for the state we are in.
Kindnesshaving the spirit of concern for others that results in treating them with respect which quite often is undeserved.  It is a natural result of the first attitude of compassion.

Humility…which is the attitude that every man or woman is better than we are, and we should never feel that we are better in any way that those around us.
Meekness…which could also be described as gentleness.  It should never be confused with weakness, but rather it is a willingness to control or relinquish our strength in order to avoid conflict.  Jesus was the perfect example of strength controlled by relinquishing His “rights”.

Longsuffering…which is simply another word for patience.  Do you react with patience when others test you with their argumentative or combative nature?  Are you willing to take what they give without reacting in kind?
Forbearance…is the next step after longsuffering in that not only do we not react in kind, we actually put up with the actions of those who might desire conflict.  It literally means to “endure”, or stand tall in spite of what comes our way without giving in to the desire to retaliate.

Forgiveness…the last but certainly not the least of the qualities we need to put on is forgiveness.  Paul also makes it clear that he is not referring to forgiveness as we might see it, but rather forgiveness such as God the Father has for us.  That type of forgiveness is the type where past grievances are totally forgotten, never to be brought up again.  How difficult is that to us when the natural reaction is to remember everything someone else has done to us, and later use it as ammunition against them. True forgiveness means suffering a wrong, and being willing to pretend it never happened and not allowing it to affect our actions towards that individual again.
Just as we get up every day and consider what we are going to wear, Paul tells us to first “check our bowels” to be sure we are dressed with the spiritual attitudes God expects His believers to wear.  I think it reasonable to conclude Paul is telling us it would be a good idea for all of us to worry more about wearing the right Godly attitudes than wearing the right clothes.

Keep watching.