Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering…
— Colossians 3:12
Let me challenge you today: Set aside some quality time to be alone with God and make this specific request of Him: “Father, I ask You to show me what areas of my life need to be adjusted so they more accurately represent the attitude of Jesus Christ.” And as you begin a search with that question in your heart, I suggest that you begin with Colossians 3:12, where Paul described the Christ-like attitudes we need to implement in our lives.
Paul wrote, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.” Paul’s choice of wording for each character trait is very specific, so let’s take time today to deconstruct them to better discern his exact meaning of each one.
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To begin, I want to focus on the phrase “bowels of mercies,” which sounds very strange in today’s vernacular but conveys a powerful message. It is a translation of two Greek words, splagnon and oiktirmos. The word splagnon refers to the inner organs of a human body, or more specifically, the bowels, and the word oiktirmos denotes compassion or a deeply felt urge to help relieve some kind of pain or sorrow.
Before I elaborate further on the Greek word splagnon (“bowels”), I must ask you to pardon me in advance for being so blunt with my explanation. However, it is important to consider the function of bowels in order to understand the reason why that word is used in connection with “mercy” and “compassion” in the New Testament.
Physically, when your bowels move, you feel it deeply. When the process is done, the bowels have made a physical deposit and rid the body of human waste. The purpose of these feelings, however, is not superficial — they are a sign that the intestines are working to push waste through the system and out of the body.
Thus, by using the word splagnon, Paul was saying that deep feelings of compassion should do more than merely provoke pity for a person’s situation; they should spur you to action. When these feelings begin to well up deep within your spirit, you must surrender to them and let them work through your inner man until they manifest through your words and actions. As you do this, God’s Spirit simultaneously works through you to reach out and make a spiritual deposit into those who are suffering, sorrowful, or going through a difficult time in their lives. To feel that inner pain without taking any action simply produces no benefit.
It’s interesting to note that “bowels of mercies” is the very first Christ-like attitude that Paul listed in Colossians 3:12. Throughout the four gospels, the Greek words splagnon and oiktirmos are frequently used together to describe moments when Jesus was “moved with compassion.” The Bible tells us that when Jesus experienced this feeling, compassion flowed from deep inside Him to help multitudes, heal the sick, or otherwise demonstrate God’s kindness to people who were in need (see Matthew 14:14-21; 15:32-38; 20:34; Mark 1:41,42; 6:34-44; 8:2-9; Luke 7:13-15). By listing this quality first, Paul was urging us not to focus on our own needs but rather to turn our attention outward to others who are in trouble and allow our hearts to feel their pain until we are inwardly touched !
Is there someone you know who needs a touch of God’s compassion? That divine compassion is deposited deep inside your spirit, and if you will yield to it, it will flow from the deepest part of your being to heal, change, deliver, and bring relief to that person in need. So I exhort you: Please don’t shut off your bowels of compassion! If you sense the urge growing and building inside your spirit to alleviate another person’s pain, let that compassion flow and bring him or her the delivering power of God.
The next attitude Paul told us to put on in Colossians 3:12 is “kindness.” This is a translation of the Greek word chrestotes, which means to show kindness or to be friendly to others. In Greek history, it often depicted rulers, governors, or others in positions of leadership and authority who were kind, mild, and benevolent to their subjects. Anyone who demonstrated this quality of chrestotes was considered to be compassionate, considerate, sympathetic, humane, kind, and gentle. Elsewhere in Scripture, the apostle Paul used this word chrestotes to depict God’s incomprehensible kindness for people who are unsaved (see Romans 11:22; Ephesians 2:7; Titus 3:4). One scholar has noted that when the word chrestotes is applied to interhuman relationships, it conveys the idea of being adaptable to others.
When chrestotes is working in a believer, that believer strives to become adaptable to the needs of those around him rather than harshly requiring everyone else to adapt to his own needs and desires. This is so contrary to the flesh, which says, “Excuse me, but if you don’t like me the way I am, that’s tough! This is the way I am, and if you don’t like it, you can just get out of here. I’m not changing for anyone!”
When the Holy Spirit produces “kindness” in you, your entire mode of thinking will change. You’ll begin to ask people, “How can I be different for you? Is there any way I can change that will help you? Is there anything I can do better for you? How can I serve you to meet your needs more effectively?”
When you become adaptable to meet the needs of other people, a supernatural work of God takes place in your heart, and you grow substantially in your spiritual walk as a result. If this kindness hasn’t started to work in you yet, today would be a great day for you to ask the Holy Spirit to start producing this Christ-like attitude in your life!
Paul continued in Colossians 3:12 by urging us to allow “humbleness of mind” to develop in our lives. The Greek word used here is tapeinophrosune, a compound of the words tapeinos and phronos. The word tapeinos is translated humility, and it depicts the attitude of one who is humble, lowly, and willing to stoop to any level that is needed. The word phronos simply means to think. When these two words are compounded, as in this verse, the new word portrays the attitude of someone who is unassuming and not self-promoting. It suggests a person who is modest and unpretentious.
Does “humbleness of mind” operate in your life? Jesus was known for stooping to the level of everyone around Him in order to minister life to them. Had He seen Himself as “better” or “more deserving” than others, He never would have died on the Cross for you and me. Kindness is also a Christ-like attitude that the Holy Spirit strongly desires to produce in all of our lives. Is it working in you right now, or is this an area in which you need to allow the Holy Spirit to work more deeply in your character?
In this remarkable list of Christ-like attitudes found in Colossians 3:12, Paul next mentioned “meekness.” Most people assume that if a person is meek, he must be weak. However, this is a grossly incorrect view of the word “meekness.” In reality, “meekness” is one of the strongest attributes a person can possess, because it refers to a unique strength that dramatically impacts everyone it touches. In fact, in the ancient world, meekness was considered to be a high and noble ideal that people aspired to attain in life!
The word “meekness” is the Greek word prautes, which describes a person who is forbearing, patient, and slow to respond in anger or a strong-willed person who has learned to submit his will to a higher authority. This isn’t a weak person; it’s a controlled person. A meek individual may possess a firm will and a powerful character, and he may have his own strong opinions. However, he has fundamentally learned how to bring his will under control. When confronted by an injurious situation, a meek person doesn’t react with a rash or angry outburst, flying into a rage and throwing a temper tantrum. Instead he responds with kindness, gentleness, mildness, or even friendliness.
In rare instances, the word prautes (“meekness”) was used in Classical Greek literature to describe wild animals that had become tame because the word correctly conveys the idea of a wild, fierce will being brought under control. Thus, the meaning of this word extends to the idea of an individual who remains in control of himself in the face of insults or injuries. In the Greek language, the word prautes also conveys the idea of a high and noble ideal to be aspired to in one’s life.
In addition, the word prautes was used in a medical sense to denote soothing medication to calm the angry mind. Thus, we see that a meek person doesn’t project the countenance of one who is offended, upset, angry, or reactive to insults or injuries. Instead, his response is so gentle and mild that it acts as a soothing medicine for an angry or upset soul in an unsettling situation.
The flesh loves to rage out of control, but “meekness” makes you careful and controlled even in difficult circumstances. Instead of flying into a rage and throwing a temper tantrum at every perceived slight, you’re able to remain silent and keep your emotions and temper in check. Your very presence will become God’s soothing medication for angry, upset people, and you will impart peace to situations that previously were unsettling and unstable. And if you find yourself in a situation that you fiercely believe is wrong, you’re still able to remain silent until the appropriate moment to speak or until you’ve been asked for your opinion. You know how to control yourself and your emotions.
Last in Paul’s list of Christ-like attitudes is the word “longsuffering.” This is a translation of the Greek word makrothumia, which is a compound of the words makros and thumos. The word makros indicates something that is long, distant, far, or remote. The word thumos is often translated anger, but it also embodies the idea of a strong and growing passion about something. When the two words are compounded, they form the word makrothumia, which refers to the patient restraint of anger, longsuffering, forbearance, or patience.
The idea of makrothumia, or “longsuffering,” can be compared to a candle with a very long wick that allows it to burn for a long time. In a similar way, a person who is longsuffering is ready to forbear and patiently wait for people to “come around,” listen to counsel, make progress, and ultimately implement change in their lives. Walking in makrothumia is a part of our Christian responsibility. We have an obligation before God not to be short-tempered with people who struggle or fail. Instead, we are to forbear with them and help them succeed!
Long suffering is so different from the way the flesh wants to react. Flesh gets easily angered, blows up, loses its temper, says things it later regrets, and doesn’t want to give the same mercy it demands from others. That is the exact opposite of the response God wants us to have when facing difficult situations. In fact, He commands us to make long suffering a key characteristic in our lives!
This one verse holds so much insight into the question that we need to answer before God: What areas of my life need to be adjusted so they more accurately represent the attitude of Jesus Christ? Any or all of these qualities we discussed above may represent some of those areas that need to be adjusted in our lives. The good news is that the Holy Spirit lives in us, and each character trait discussed today is a fruit He wants to produce in our lives. All He needs is our cooperation.
So I encourage you: Make the decision today to yield to the Holy Spirit on a continual basis, and allow Him to produce these Christ-like attitudes inside you!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Holy Spirit, I am so thankful that You live inside of me to produce the attitudes of Jesus Christ in my life. Today I have been convicted regarding areas in my life where I need to grow and change. I ask You to release Your divine power inside me to produce the attitudes and the attributes of Jesus’ character in my life. Let Colossians 3:12 become a reality inside me as the very nature and life of Jesus becomes replicated in me!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I boldly confess that I am changing every day as I surrender to the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. He is convicting me of areas where I need to be more Christ-like, and I am responding to what He reveals to me about the areas I need to change so I can become more conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. I am not powerless. I am not a victim to my ugly old nature. The Spirit of God indwells me, and He gives me the power to change in these areas where He is speaking to my heart!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Can you think of a time when God’s compassion tried to flow through you, but you reasoned yourself out of yielding to that inner urge? Were you later sorry that you denied the love of God to be expressed through your life?
- Take a moment to examine the way you respond to insults, injuries, or volatile situations. Do you find that you are often a contributor to a heated and potentially explosive atmosphere? Or does your presence bring peace into the midst of the conflict? When others say or do something that could offend you, do you quickly retort with a harsh answer, or are you able to control your emotions and temper, remaining silent until a more appropriate time to speak?
- Do you “suffer long” with others who struggle in some area, or are you easily angered and irritated when people don’t “get it right the first time”? Have you ever said something rude to someone else who was genuinely trying his best to succeed at something yet had failed? Were you later convicted of your own failures and shortcomings? Do you remember others who practiced long suffering toward you when you needed it? What about those who didn’t demonstrate long suffering? How did their attitudes or behaviors help or hinder you?