In Hamlet, William Shakespeare wrote that "apparel oft proclaims the man." Mark Twain took that thought a step further when he said, "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." The idea here is that what we wear says a lot about who we are. It also influences the way in which people look at us and the effect that we have on them. In the business world, we are told to dress for success. We wouldn't go to work wearing a bathing suit and sandals (unless we work as a lifeguard!) anymore than we would go to a black tie affair wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers.
As followers of Christ, we become part of God's chosen people. And, as God's chosen people, we need to dress the part. What we wear should show the world who, or rather whose, we are. This doesn't mean wearing a tuxedo, an evening gown, or some formal wear. It doesn't mean wearing a suit and tie or a dress. In fact, it has nothing to do with clothes. As God's chosen people, those whom God has set apart as holy and beloved, we need to dress the part by putting on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).
The Greek word translated as “compassion” in Colossians 3:12 is splanchnon. This literally means the intestines, the area of the body from which it was believed that the emotions of compassion, love, and tenderness originated. It is a deep emotion that reflects the love and compassion that God has for us. By wearing compassion, we reflect the compassion of God to the world. The word translated as “kindness” is chrēstotēs. This refers to a characteristic of God, illustrating the kindness and favor that He shows to us as believers. Because we have received the chrēstotēs, or kindness, of God, we need to clothe ourselves with kindness. When we do, it becomes a part of our character, reflecting God’s character in the world around us.
The word translated as “humility” is tapeinophrosynē, which refers to humility or lowliness of heart and mind. This is a virtue that was demonstrated by Christ when, in obedience to the Father’s will, He humbled himself by accepting death on a cross. We need to wear this humility, putting others above ourselves as we seek to represent Christ. The Greek word for “gentleness” is prautēs. It means approach others, both friends and enemies, with a spirit of humility and caring, not forcing our own way on others. As Christians, this is a virtue that should be evident to all we come into contact with.
The word translated as “patience” is makrothymia. Coming from two words, makros (meaning “long” in the sense of time) and thymos (meaning “the soul,” the seat of feelings and passions), makrothymia means to “delay one’s anger.” It means having the same kind of patience with others that God has with us. While wearing these virtues, we need to bear with one another and be sure to forgive others in the same way that God forgives us (Colossians 3:13).
Finally, to top off this “wardrobe,” we need to put on “love.” Love is like the accessories we add to clothes. Just as the accessories we wear tie our wardrobe together, so love binds all of these virtues we wear as God’s chosen people in perfect unity (Colossians 3:14). So, before we go out into the world each day, we should always make sure that we put on the wardrobe of God’s chosen people.