While on a hike with my kids, we discovered a light, springy green plant growing in small clumps on the trail. According to a signpost, the plant is commonly called deer moss, but it’s not actually a moss at all. It’s a lichen. A lichen is a fungus and an alga growing together in a mutualistic relationship in which both organisms benefit from each other. Neither the fungus nor the alga can survive on its own, but together they form a hardy plant that can live in some alpine areas for up to 4,500 years. Because the plant can withstand drought and low temperatures, it’s one of the only food sources for caribou (reindeer) in deep winter.
The relationship between the fungus and the alga reminds me of our human relationships. We rely on each other. To grow and flourish, we need to be in relationship with each other.
Paul, writing to believers in Colossae, describes how our relationships should look. We are to clothe ourselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). We ought to forgive each other and live in peace “as members of one body” (v. 15).
It’s not always easy to live in peace with our families or friends. But when the Spirit empowers us to exhibit humility and forgiveness in our relationships, our love for each other points to Christ (John 13:35) and brings glory to God.
In what ways do your relationships point to Jesus? How can you pursue peace?
In Colossians 3:12–14 Paul urges the Colossians to clothe—put on, develop, exercise, display—certain characteristics. This list bears a striking resemblance to the attributes known as the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22–23. The fruit of the Spirit is grown and developed by the Spirit.
Both lists share a number of the same qualities (love, kindness, gentleness), but there’s something we don’t always focus on. In the letter to the Colossians, Paul encourages his readers to “clothe [themselves]” (3:12). Clothe is a reflexive verb. Paul is telling them to do something. Spiritual growth is a harmony of two parts: ours and the Holy Spirit’s. Paul is reminding the Colossian believers and us that we are to participate with the Holy Spirit in our spiritual growth.