As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17)
Im and I like to walk. We are great hikers, and we enjoy God’s splendor on our walks alone and together. We have taken pilgrimages, climbed mountains, and have wonderful memories from these journeys. But we had to train, to prepare, and we have to work to stay in condition. Anything that we seek to become good at requires practice and conditioning. This is especially true of our Christian virtues and values.
While we are gifted in many things, we can only improve if we employ our gifts. Being truly compassionate demands that we put our thoughts into action. Kindness grows and deepens with use. We become humble by practicing, and what might feel phony or uncomfortable at first soon becomes natural to us. To be tolerant, caring, forgiving, generous, or gentle develops over time. Our ability to make and preserve peace, maintain patience, to stay faithful – these all require intention and commitment. We are always becoming – becoming more just, more loving, more merciful, more sharing. Wisdom grows over time; no one arrives in this life fully formed, and no one ever achieves perfection. We are all works in progress. And how much easier and better it is to be works in progress together.
Paul offers us a wonderful insight; we can clothe ourselves in the very things we want to become. We can immerse ourselves in the values, beliefs, and practices that make us more Christ-like. We can “attend to all the ordinances of God” (prayer, study of scripture, sharing the sacraments, sharing our faith in Christian Conference, fasting, journaling, meditation, for example) and grow day by day into the most effective and glorifying body of Christ possible. Let’s continue – the journey of a million miles begins with the first step.
Almighty God, you provide us with everything we need to become the people you desire us to be. Fill us with your Holy Spirit, unlock the gifts we have been given for ministry, and enable us to grow in our faithfulness as we develop our Christian values. We ask your blessing, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).