Writing to the church in Colossae, Paul takes up the imagery of getting dressed—a daily activity: “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness [that is, teachability], and patience...above all, clothe yourselves with love.”
In our Gospel reading, Jesus speaks of being robbed of clothing: “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you...from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.”
What if those who sought to rob us of our compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, our love, found themselves enveloped in these things, by our response?
“Above all, clothe yourselves with love.” Colossians 3:14
Maybe it is because I do the laundry in our house, but I very much word-associate socks with socks-and-[under]pants; whereas, my youngest son very much word-associates socks-and-shoes. So, socks are almost the first thing I put on in the morning, and almost the last thing my son puts on.
We all get dressed in our own idiosyncratic way. And what our clothes look like says something of the culture we live in, of the generation we belong to within that culture. What we wear may say something about the role we play (as do my clerical shirts) or an activity we are taking part in (as does my hi-viz running top: there is a time and a place). Sometimes, we need to put the clothes on and keep putting the clothes on until we own them (I went for a lot of runs before I saw myself as a runner).
And some of us need help in getting dressed—for which, if we are loved by the helper, we need feel no shame, but may do nonetheless.
Ultimately, clothing protects us from the elements, and also from the shame of public nakedness. From over-exposure, in more than one sense. Though in our intimate settings, we remove our clothes.
Paul writes, above all, clothe yourselves with love. Like clothes, love is universal, but how it is expressed may vary somewhat from culture to culture, context to context. Like clothes, love is something we may need to grow into. Like clothes, love is something we sometimes need help to put on. Like clothes, we sometimes remove love in our intimate settings, hurting (often unintentionally, and to our deep shame) those closest to us.
Like clothes, love is something we must put on, afresh, if not always fresh, each day.
The seasons are turning, here in the north of the northern hemisphere. You might want to dig out a jumper, or pull on a coat. But, wherever you live in the world, and whatever you wear today, above all, clothe yourself with love.