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“Let the Peace of Christ Rule”

Colossians 3:12-17
Bob DeGray
April 10, 2005

Key Sentence

Will you let Christ’s peace make the rules for your family?


I. Peaceful Family Members (Colossians 3:12-14)
II. Let the Peace of Christ Rule (Colossians 3:15)
III. Through Peaceful Family Practices (Colossians 3:16-17)


        When was the last time you filled up an ice cube tray. The ice maker on our refrigerator doesn’t work, so we do it all the time. There are several ways to fill a tray but they all have the same result in common - first you fill the individual cells, then, if you keep going, you overflow the top. Each individual cube has to fill up before the whole tray can be called ‘full’. And as we’re going to discover in our Scripture today, families are like ice cube trays, and peace is like water. Before your family can be call ‘full’ of peace, each individual member in the family needs to be filled and characterized by peace, so that the whole family can overflow with peace.

        Last week, as we began our ‘missing peace’ series, Mike talked about peace as a benefit of salvation - having been justified by faith in Jesus, we have peace of God. In the rest of the series Mike and I are going to apply that truth to different aspects of life. So this morning we’re going to look at Colossians 3 with an eye toward peace in the family. Colossians 3 isn’t about the family: it’s about Christian living as applied to a church. But I can’t think of any Scripture with more practical application to the family, and I’m going to focus on that application as I preach it. So these verses can make a huge difference if you can answer positively this one simple question: will you let the peace of Christ make the rules for your family? Will you let the peace of Christ make the rules for you and your family?

        We’re going to look at Colossians 3:12-17, and in the first three verse we’re going to see the Christlike character of peaceful family members - a peaceful family has to have peaceful family members. Then in verse 15 we’re going to hear this challenge to let the peace of Christ make the rules. Finally, in verses 16 and 17 were going to see some of the practices of a peaceful family. If you listen to this text on the personal level of your own heart and on the level of what your family does, I think you’ll find some really practical keys to peace in the family.

I. Peaceful Family Members (Colossians 3:12-14)

        The peaceful family starts with family members who by their individual attitudes promote peace. Colossians 3:12-14. Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

        Paul describes peaceful people using a metaphor and seven descriptive words. The metaphor is that of clothing yourself in Christlikeness. Paul prefaces this truth with a description of those it applies to. Verse 12: “Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves.”

        Paul lays the foundation for all he expects of God’s people in God’s work, the facts of what God has done. He chose you to be his very own. He made you holy, declaring you righteous in Jesus, and he dearly, desperately loves you. You are ultimately and rightly dependant on him, and he is the source of strength for any right behavior you might attempt. Peaceful family living is not ultimately based on human works, but depends on the grace of a God who dearly loves us.

        In this context Paul calls us to clothe ourselves with Christlike attitudes. Recognize that Paul has already talked in Colossians 3 about clothing themselves. Verse 9 says: “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self.” We deliberately take on Christlike attitudes and behaviors as we would put on fine clean clothing. And with every piece we take on, we become more and more like Jesus.

        With what, then should we clothe ourselves? Paul begins with five things: Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. The word ‘compassion’ is literally ‘a gut of mercy’ or a gut feeling of mercy. Jesus had it. Matthew 15:32, "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days with nothing to eat.” Mark 6:34 “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them.” To be like Jesus is to act on your compassion for the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs in your family. The opposite is indifference - it is knowing that someone is hurting and doing nothing about it, not letting the feelings, or even physical hurts of your family get to your heart or affect your behavior. Indifference is a sure formula for strife in your family. Peaceful people care.

        Next, kindness. The DeGray definition: Kindness is being nice to people. It’s doing nice things for people, being polite to them, seeing where they need help, thinking of their convenience. 3 and 4 year olds can tell you ‘so and so is not being nice’ - because being nice is one of the most basic attitudes of a peaceful family member. The opposite is selfishness. You know what this looks like because you’ve done it. It’s taking the last piece, letting someone else clean up, walking by when someone needs a hand, making unreasonable demands to satisfy your ego, spending unreasonable money to meet only your needs. Peaceful people are kind to others.
        Next, clothe yourself with humility - or selflessness. Humility means letting others have the credit, the honor, the starring role, the last word. It means recognizing that I might be wrong, not jumping to conclusions, not putting myself above others. Christ sets the standard of humility. Philippians 2: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who . . . made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death__even death on a cross!” Peaceful family members are constantly striving toward that ideal of selflessness.

        Compassion, kindness, humility. To these add gentleness. The same words which spoken gently can build up, spoken harshly can destroy. The same actions which antagonize can attract if done with gentleness. Are you seen in your family as being gentle and humble, one that others can go to and find rest for their souls? The opposite is harshness - a rock on which many a marriage, many a family has foundered. Harshness in the family invariably causes great pain. It hurts when we correct harshly, direct harshly or treat people roughly in words or actions.

        The last quality in this verse is patience. Patience is always last on these lists, because it doesn’t mind waiting to be mentioned. Patience is being willing to wait, peacefully. Was someone in your home impatient this morning? Did is lead to angry words, raised voices, frustration? Did it have any positive effect? The patient person waits for others; not a thing I’m good at, but I’m learning that my agenda, my plan, my timetable needs to be set aside peacefully. Patience also peacefully waits for change, giving people time to mature and make progress. Consider the patience of Jesus toward Peter. No matter how often and badly Peter blew it, Jesus kept patiently correcting him, forgiving him, loving him, and growing him. Peaceful people wait.

        So the first five attitudes of a peaceful family member are found in this list: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. In verse 13 Paul emphasizes a sixth quality: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” In any family there are going to be things about others that grate, that annoy, that make you uncomfortable. Many of these are not sin issues but style issues, or just our own irritability, and so we need to learn to peacefully accept them. But where there is sin, there needs to be forgiveness. To forgive like Jesus is a core Biblical discipline for peace in the family. Families are wrecked and ruined because people won’t ask for forgiveness, an people won’t forgive, and because unforgiveness festers into bitterness.

        Forgiveness is a core Biblical discipline. Jesus taught it so often. He told Peter to forgive his brother not seven times but seventy times seven. He told the parable of the unmerciful servant to show that as we have been forgiven greatly, so we must forgive. You will not have peace in your marriage or your family unless you are Christlike in this arena of forgiving. But someone will say to me, “I just can’t do it.” Well, as Paul points out, it wasn’t trivial for God either. It cost him the death of His son. The price paid for us is so much more than we are asked to pay.
        Finally, the seventh attitude: peaceful family members love each other. Verse 14: “And over all these put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Love is like the ancient cloak, which went over the whole outfit and held it all together. Love does bind all the rest of these things together in perfect unity, because each one of these things is an expression of love, so that like facets on a diamond, these attitudes, taken together, form something of perfect unity and beauty.

II. Let the Peace of Christ Rule (Colossians 3:15)

        Families will only live in peace when each family member takes responsibility to clothe themselves in Christlike attitudes. Sadly, in many families the members are clothed with indifference, rudeness, selfishness, harshness, impatience, bitterness or hatred. How do we get to Christlikeness? Verse 15 helps. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.

        This verse forms a kind of pivot between the personal attitudes of peace needed in family members and the corporate practices of peace needed in peaceful families. To use the ice cube tray metaphor, the first few verses were about us personally being filled with peace. The last two verses will be about us as families practicing peace, overflowing with peace. This pivot verse answers the key question: how do we get filled up with peace? Answer: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”

        The first thing to understand is ‘the peace of Christ’. The New Testament doesn’t use this exact phrase in any other place, but the association of peace with Christ and especially the association of peace with God through Christ is very very strong. In the Epistles almost every letter begins with something like “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Elsewhere this peace we long to experience is ‘the peace of God’ which comes from ‘the God of peace’. Paul closes several of his letters with the promise ‘the God of peace’ will be with you. Biblically, peace is both something we have with God and something that fills us from God, but both kinds of peace come through Jesus Christ. Acts 10:36 “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.” Peace comes through the Lord Jesus.

        This is clear in the verse Mike focused on last week. Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s the foundational truth the rest of this series is built on. Peace comes through justification, being declared righteous. God, as a holy judge, looks at you, a person guilty of sin, rebellion and disobedience, and brings down that gavel to say ‘not guilty’ because the sacrifice of his son paid your penalty. Jesus the Son takes your guilt and is punished; you take his innocence and are declared to have his righteousness. And Romans says it is received through faith, through believing that what Jesus did was real, that it was effective for the forgiveness of your sins, that it was in fact done for you; you trust him for your righteousness. That’s faith. Because of it, as a result of his work, not yours, you have peace with God.
        All of that is implied when Paul says to the Colossians ‘let the peace of Christ rule’. The peace of Christ is that peace Christ gives through his death and resurrection. And it is something given to you. According to other New Testament verses, it can fill you, it can equip you, it can be with you, it can guard you. Like the water filling the ice cube tray, the peace of God is not only something external in our relationship with him, but it is something that fills and overflows from within us.

        And that in turn is what frees us to live as peaceful people with the qualities we’ve already talked about. In a very real way then, these qualities are the fruit of his Holy Spirit, his gift to us as redeemed people. Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self_control.” You won’t have these things, you won’t have the Spirit’s fruit until you have trusted Christ by faith. You’ve got to begin there.

        But notice that that peace is mentioned in a verse that is itself a command to be obeyed. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” The word rule there is actually a verb and a command, so that you could translated this: ‘the peace of God - you let it rule in your hearts’ or even ‘you let it make the rules in your heart’. The underlying Greek word is ‘brabeuw’, and it originally depicted the task of the umpire or judge who directed the Greek athletic games and called out rule violations and recognized winners. Later it came to have more general applications, to arbitrate, give a verdict, preside, rule, control or hold sway, so that one commentator has translated the verse “let the peace of Christ make the rules in your heart”; let the peace which you have received from Christ govern your behavior.

        I think this is great: if you want to be a peaceful person in a peaceful family you do so by letting a commitment to peace guide your attitudes, behaviors and practices. You let the peace Christ gives fill you first so that it overflows into individual attitudes and family practices. Will you let the peace of Christ make the rules for your family, since, as Paul says, as members of one body you were called to peace? I know he’s talking about the church, and it’s directly applicable to church life. But Christian families are called to the same bond of peace, and if that peace governs you, personally and corporately, you will be a peaceful family.

III. Through Peaceful Family Practices (Colossians 3:16-17)

        But what does a peaceful family look like? What do peaceful families do? Before we close we want to look at some corporate practices, community activities that, when applied to the family, promote peace. Colossians 3:16 And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

        One thing a peaceful family does is to intentionally nourish themselves from Scripture. Verse 16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.” The word of Christ, of course, is Scripture itself, not only the words and deeds of Jesus, but all the words written through his Spirit, both Old and New Testament. These words ought to dwell in us richly. In our family we have a favorite chicken fajita marinade recipe. All it’s got in it is lemon juice, a little oil, water, garlic, salt, and pepper. Yet chicken marinated in this mixture tastes great. The taste of the marinade dwells richly with that of the chicken.

        Why? Because the chicken soaked in the marinade for hours. How do we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly? By soaking in it for hours. There is no substitute for time spent in the Word. As families, if we desire to live peacefully, we need to be letting God’s word dwell in us richly. This is so simple and yet so significant. Get the Word of God into you. Study it. Get into a routine where daily, weekly, you have set aside time to let God speak to you through his Word. You have to consciously decide to make this word the lamp to your feet, the light to your path, the foundation and the satisfaction of your life. And then, teach it: “teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.” We are to make God’s word a central part of our family consciousness, the standard by which we measure all things, the textbook of right living. We are to neither go beyond it in legalism nor ignore it in license, but apply it in love to ourselves and all our family members in all situations.

        Next, family peace practices the centrality of worship. We’ve recently proposed worship as one of the central elements of our vision as a church; that should also be true in the family. Verse 16 “Singing Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God.” Worship and music have been inextricably tied up since the time of David. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of worship without music, but, the Psalms of David, the choruses of the temple singers, the poetry at Jesus’ birth, and the music before the throne in Revelation, show that music plays a key role in worship.

        So sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Psalms are music based directly on the text of Scripture, ‘Hymns’ were used in many Greek religions to denote songs sung to or about a god. Ours are directed to the Father Son and Holy Spirit. ‘Songs’ in Greek denoted a wide range of music, from idolatrous to ribald, and so the qualifier ‘spiritual’ has been added to emphasize right content. In fact, this verse, like others in Scripture, gives relative freedom of style, but significant restraint on content. It implies that Christian music, no matter what style is used must have a Godward focus and Scriptural basis. And this kind of shared worship music will foster family peace. Joni Eareckson Tada says this: “Music and art were especially sacred in our family. It was not uncommon to sit around the dinner table after dessert and sing hymns. Even trips in the car were a treat as we invented beautiful harmonies to help the miles pass. Somehow we always knew that we were making music to the Lord.”

        Now I recognize not every family is musically gifted, certainly not ours: there are no beautiful harmonies in the back or front seats of our car - yet we have done some things to make music a significant part of our family life. Whether its singing off key, or listening to music together, or just commenting on the worship at church, we do recognize the significance of music and worship for our lives and our peace. So I encourage you to put music, psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, into the life of your family, and I believe that God-ward focus will contribute to your peace.


        A third element of a peaceful family is a shared mission. Verse 17: And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. The Puritans used to say “all of life is God’s”; everyone had a calling, a divine assignment in life, whether preaching or plumbing. The same is true in the family. Shouldn’t each family have a conscious sense of a calling from God, a divine assignment from Jesus? I think so. I don’t know exactly what that calling would look like for your family, but I know you’re called to do wholeheartedly. In fact, everything we do as a family should be done as if we were doing it for Jesus, or doing it the way Jesus would if he was in our situation. So whether we’re buying groceries, serving a meal to guests, driving in our cars, cutting the lawn, playing in the front yard, conversing with the neighbors, selling cookies, working for a political party, shopping at the mall, or helping at a food ministry, we represent Jesus and show his compassion, gentleness, humility, kindness, patience, forgiveness and love. These personal qualities of peaceful people flow into the ministry of our families.

        The final contributor to family peace is thanksgiving. I wanted to call this final element prayer, but if you look at the verses you will find it is specifically thanksgiving that is called for. Verse 15: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Verse 16: sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. Verse 17: do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

        How good are we in our families at thanksgiving? Do you ever sit down with your family and say: Let’s just pray for a while, and say thank-you to God for who he is and what he has done? This is not just good spirituality, it’s good psychology. A family that is consistently grateful for the things the Lord has done, is a family less inclined to bicker or fuss about their needs. They will have grown accustomed to seeing the Lord’s hand of blessing.

        So what does all this mean? It means the ice cube tray is full to overflowing with peace. As individuals in families we need to let the peace of Christ make the rules in our hearts, and when we do we will be characterized by compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; we will major on forgiveness and we will live out Christ’s love. Then, as families we will do things that promote peace, in focusing on scripture and encouraging one another with it, joining together in worship, displaying community in ministry, and in giving thanks. The question is will you let the peace of Christ make these rules for you personally and for your family?