A better summary of what it means to live life as a Christian cannot be gotten than this! This list applies to all of us – Jewish Christian or Gentile Christian, lay or ordained, rich or poor, male or female, young or old, whatever ‘function’ we have within the church or part within the body we represent.
This list grounds all that we do in love for one another – love and, it must be said, true affection. (Let us ask God for the grace to really like one another as well as love one another!)
Paul’s first instructions in the list are instructions for us as members of the church about how we act towards one another. But then, he turns and faces outwards, and charges each of us to live in ways so harmonious, peaceable, and forgiving towards our neighbours outside the church that we extend God’s loving-kindness to all.
It is a real challenge to do that. In our day in which suspicion of one another is all but a given, it can be hard to remain doggedly trusting. In our day in which it is in vogue to hate those who are Tories or Labour or of another political faction and to hurl insult through social media and defamation, it can be profoundly difficult to live differently. In our day in which immigrants are vilified, and executing vengeance upon the enemy (first it was the Nazis, then the Russians, then the Taliban, now it is ISIS) is considered a moral duty, it can be risky to stand up and say: this is not the way of Christ. It is all too easy to get swept along in the moment, to be carried by the crowd. But that isn’t Christ’s way, says Paul. And now that we are in Christ and he is in us, it isn’t our way, either. Our way is one of love, and of submission to the other.
Patrick is curate of All Saints’, Ascot in Berkshire. A musicologist by training, he is married to Lydia, a university lecturer, and dad to Madeleine. He writes (sporadically) at benedixisti.wordpress.com and tweets (even more sporadically) as @patrickgilday.