My parents were attentive to how their six children dressed when we went out in public. They were not excessively picky or smothering, but they wanted us to appear shipshape. For example, when we were getting ready for school or church, Mom or Dad would typically say, “Don’t forget to put on a belt.” Why did they do this? A belt finished off the outfit. It tidied up our appearance and held everything together.
The same is true of Christlike love. Love is the belt that ties all the Christian virtues together. That’s the apostle’s point in today’s verse. The command to “put on love” is located near the end of a running list of exhortations to “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (Col. 3:12) to “put on the new self ” (v. 10).
To help us get practical, consider that put on may also be translated “clothe.” This change in our wardrobe, however, isn’t about improving our outward appearance. It involves throwing away the clothing of the old man: the sins of the flesh, such as “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk” as well as lies (Col. 3:8–9). In place of our old attire, we must put on the new wardrobe of Christlikeness, which includes “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” as well as forbearance and forgiveness (v. 12; see also v. 13). Through the heart-transforming power of the gospel, the Holy Spirit aims to give us an extreme makeover—to empty the closet of our old ways and give us a new wardrobe. And the belt that “binds everything together in perfect harmony” is love.
Love is all-encompassing. “Owe no one anything, except to love each other,” Paul writes to the church at Rome (Rom. 13:8). Here, Paul draws attention to the superiority and permanent impact of love, “for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (v. 8). In other words, the one debt we will never be free from is the debt of love.
This agrees with Jesus’s teaching concerning the two supreme commandments: to love God and others ties together all the rest of God’s commandments (see Matt. 22: 37–40). If we always love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and if we always love our neighbors as ourselves, we will never sin. “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13:10).
The belt of love is woven together with cords of humility. To love biblically is to consider others to be more important than yourself. Love is the culmination of all other virtues because its selflessness brings glory to our humble Savior. When we tie our new wardrobe together with demonstrations of Christ’s love, we will find ourselves becoming more like our Savior.
- TALK TO YOURSELF. “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14). How does this verse speak to your current relationships? Consider memorizing it so that the Spirit may more easily bring it to mind when a “love choice” needs to be made.
- TALK TO GOD. To the believers in Thessalonica, the apostle wrote, “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another” (1 Thess. 4:9). In what ways do your attitudes and actions toward others lack Christlike love? Ask the Lord to forgive you for these sins of omission and to teach you to grow in love.
- TALK TO OTHERS. How can you practically express selfless love to someone this week?
NOTE: This blog post is a chapter excerpt from the new book, Remade: Embracing Your Complete Identity in Christ. It is now available for pre-order from ChristianBook.com and PCA Bookstore and Biblical Counseling Books and Amazon.