[14] And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Colossians 3:14

We have all heard numerous messages over the years on the subject of loving one another and yet this most simplest of things seems to be the one thing we struggle with the most. Our reason for not venturing into the realm of ‘loving one another’ is usually because of past experiences that have not worked out, some of which have even been hurtful. Yet the truth is, that Paul and therefore scripture does not give us the luxury or provide us with a reason to just cast love for one another aside.

On the other hand I understand why there can be a reaction to the concept of love. There are countless instances where things have been said and done in the name of ‘love’. Marriages wrecked, children abused, families torn apart because one person or another made a decision to do something because they added in the word ‘love’.

Our society uses the word ‘love’ to describe things that the Bible calls temptation, greed, lust, and sin. Yet we cannot just shake our heads in disgust or raise our complaint on a banner and parade it around our towns and cities. It should be our privilege, joy and responsibility to show and demonstrate biblical love.

Let’s be clear, this biblical truth of love is prominent and challenging in scripture, it is central and supreme among all Christian virtues and is clearly seen throughout the Bible. We simply cannot give ourselves an excuse not to love. For example,

[8] Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. [9] For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

Romans 13:8-9

[14] For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

Galatians 5:14

[13] So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

[22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

Galatians 5:22

[6] For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Galatians 5:6

Add to that our text (Colossians 3:14) and many, many others. To fully appreciate Paul’s point, we need to look at Paul’s choice of words.

Does Paul mean “above all these” (or “upon all these”) in the sense that love is the motivating factor for everything that has gone before like compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another forgiving (Colossians 3:12-13)?

Or, should we render this phrase, “beyond all things,” the point being that love is the greatest and most important of all virtues?

I personally don’t think there’s much need for a choice because the two ideas overlap and work together.

Perhaps more challenging is what Paul describes as the result of such love which, “binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

The word translated “perfect harmony” has the sense of “perfection” or “maturity” or “completeness” (also found in Hebrews 6:1). You can translate the phrase “the bond that produces (or results in) perfection.”

The problem being “perfect harmony” is not often what we experience!

So, is Paul saying that love is the power that holds all the others together? There is certainly a sense in which love is the catalyst that empowers all the other fruits of the Spirit. We cannot deny that biblical love is the oil that makes the machinery of life and church work better, that it reduces friction.

Or, to put it another way, it is the glue that unites all the other Christian qualities together. For example without love, knowledge is a selfish acquisition; without love holiness is self-righteousness; without love, zeal is striving endeavour; without love hope can be deception. Love, as it were, holds them all together in a single coherent package.

So again is that what Paul is saying here? I think Paul is speaking about a love as that which ultimately binds together the Christian community itself, the church “together as one.”

It isn’t so much the individual acts of love that occur in the body of Christ but more like the many fellow-believers themselves who are united by this remarkable affection. It is body wide love!

Paul’s main concern, is not that these virtues be joined together in a perfect unity. Instead, he is concerned about the diversity of individuals found in the church such as Greek, Jew, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free – being joined together in one community. Love binds the community of believers together into the one body where peace reigns (Colossians 3:15) and leads to what Paul describes as perfect harmony.

[13] until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

Ephesians 4:13

At the end of the day it is this love (and only this love) which is strong enough to hold together a church of disparate and different individuals.

However we choose to translate verse 14 we should never take love for granted or lower love down our priority list in the role it plays in our lives individually and corporately as God’s people. And just as our forgiving one another (Colossians 3:13) is based on Christ’s having forgiven us, so too must our love be modelled after the love with which we have been loved by him.

[35] By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13:35