Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (Colossians 3:12–14—NKJV)

Disagreements will always be found where there are at least two people pursuing life. When two or more are trying to work together toward a common goal, there will likely be disagreements precisely because each is an individual. This problem is to be expected among men. If there is no common goal toward which the individuals are bound, then “agreeing to disagree agreeably” while each goes their own separate way is a useful approach.

But when there is a common goal, a common employer, a common identity, and especially when there is a common spiritual family, then there must be some resolution of disagreements, settling of debts, modification of actions, and tempering of hurt feelings. These are the downside risks of cooperation, but do not forget the glories of resolution, the success of accomplishment and victories of teamwork! When both parties are believers, then the sweet influences of the Holy Spirit will be seen in the exercise of Christian graces.

In the arena of church life, one is immediately faced with a potentially volatile mix of people with strong feelings. Though they ideally have a strong allegiance to their Lord and Savior and are admonished by the same biblical standards of conduct, yet they are bound to have strong convictions and believe in doctrines which distinguish among believers. Strong doctrine forms strong convictions which enforce strong opinions and therefore strong actions. That doctrinally strong churches survive is attributable to the Holy Spirit.

My father’s generation used to have a way of affirming friendship when friends did not agree. Once their differences where aired and they knew there was no way to compromise, then they would clarify their feelings and shake hands. One would say to the other, “No hard feelings?” and the other would assure, “No hard feelings.” Firm belief is expected of men of principle who are, by those beliefs, compelled to be men of action. At the point of action they may be forced to part ways until the situation over which they differ is passed. “Hard and fast” convictions, like hard facts, are things that cannot be modified, but hurt feelings that are brought under submission to higher ideals demand to be informed and disarmed. Though the offended feelings will still be “hurt feelings,” they no longer need be “hard feelings.”

Our text speaks to this good behavior of a bygone era. I often call verses 12 through 16 “The Great Compassion” of the local church. The passage begins with that which forms the local church and its relationships—the election of God making us each holy and beloved in the sight of our Lord and, hopefully, in the sight of each other. As a man puts on clothing in preparation for his workday, so the believer must put on behaviors that are fitting for someone who is privileged to be in the local body of Christ. Being supremely loved of God demands that every believer deploy that love in behalf of others, who themselves are also the objects of His love. Review the qualities of this divine love: tender mercies (compassionate pity), kindness (the spirit in which goodness is extended), humility (seeing each other through God’s eyes), meekness (strength under self-control), longsuffering (biblically handling injuries from others), bearing with one another (enduring and upholding one another), and forgiving one another (giving up your right of vengeance).

Verse 13 then raises the subject of “hard feelings” which may be harbored by a given party. The Greek word means complaint, blame, occasion of complaint; from the root word for a fate, a lot. While the text does not minimize the “complaint,” it does require the parties to filter their interpretation of the complaint and their response to the complaint by remembering the grace of God in daily granting each one of us total and free forgiveness. Just as Christ has forgiven us, so we “must do;” we are obligated to extend the same to others. The text is not delving into: Who is right? How big was the offense? Will it likely happen again? It is all about the debt of agape love which is the bond of perfection (love is the cement that holds unity together—Ephesians 4:3, Colossians 2:2) as described in verse 14.

Are you nurturing hard feelings towards others or are hard feelings being re-wounded whenever you interact with a particular believer? Make your feelings submit to the example you receive from your Lord who is always willing to treat you with grace even when you regularly let Him down. Trust and obey.