Knute Rockne was the Notre Dame coach in 1928 and wasn’t having a very good season. His team was trailing Army at the half and most of us know what transpired next from the movie, Knute Rockne—All American.
The scene opens with the interior of the Notre Dame dressing room—this is an hour and 17 minutes into the movie. The players, seated with blankets draped over their shoulders, are dejected and silent. The door pushes open and Rockne is wheeled in. They look at Rockne (played by Pat O’Brien) in mute apology, then guiltily away, as if to avoid his eyes. His dark-circled eyes range over the players for a full moment of unbroken silence. Then, quietly, as if the game didn’t matter to him:
ROCKNE: Well, boys … I haven’t a thing to say. Played a great game…all of you. Great game.
(He tries to smile.) I guess we just can’t expect to win ‘em all. (Rockne pauses and says quietly). I’m going to tell you something I’ve kept to myself for years — None of you ever knew George Gipp. It was long before your time. But you know what a tradition he is at Notre Dame…
(There is gentle, faraway look in his eyes as he recalls the boy’s words). And the last thing he said to me — “Rock,” he said – “sometime, when the team is up against it — and the breaks are beating the boys — tell them to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper…
(Knute’s eyes become misty and his voice is unsteady as he finishes). I don’t know where I’ll be then, Rock”, he said – “but I’ll know about it – and I’ll be happy.”
There is a hushed stillness as Rockne and the crowd of boys look at each other. In the midst of this tense silence, Rockne quietly says “Alright,” to the men beside him, and his chair is wheeled slowly out of the dressing room.
PLAYER # 12: Well, what are we waiting for?
With a single roar, the players throw off their blankets and rush through the doorway.
From University of Notre Dame archives.
Read Colossians 3:12-17
Let’s win one for the Gipper. There’s a phrase that’s been a rallying cry for a few decades.
There are others, many of which we know through history or the movies.
Remember the Alamo was less a memorial than it was a rallying cry.
On 4 June 1918, hundreds of yards from what had been an impenetrable German position in Belleu Woods, a Marine Gunnery Sergeant was credited with saying, come on you very special people—those were not the exact words—do you want to live forever?
There is always a greater cause that brings out the greater good and even greater abilities within us.
Paul wrote to the church at Colossae from prison, perhaps in Rome perhaps while in prison elsewhere. The exact time and place remains in dispute as an Earthquake destroyed much of this city during the time Paul was in Rome. This letter was one that was expected to be read among several churches: Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. All of these were near each other in present day Turkey.
Like the church at Rome, Paul wrote to the Colossians even though he had never been there. Unlike the church at Rome, Paul never came to visit these churches.
The Colossians may have experienced unique challenges in their faith. While some churches dealt with pagan worship and others with the Jews trying to attach the law to salvation in Christ; it is likely that the major issue of contention in Colossae was astrology. The sun and the stars were not worshiped, but there may have been some belief that the fate of mankind was in the stars.
Paul and these followers knew each other only via messengers and letters.
Paul writes to these believers who were being challenged by the world around them, and he addresses the topics of the supremacy of Christ, freedom from regulations, and rules for holy living. It is this third area that is the subject of the present discussion. Paul uses the imagery and metaphor of clothing. We are to take off the “old self” and put on the “new.”
We are to clothe ourselves with 5 specific virtues:
Compare this to what Paul wrote to the church in Galatia with somewhat different metaphor.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Our holy living is Spirit filled living. We put on virtues. We produce fruit. Paul is discussing a way of life. It is a new way of life to be lived by those who have died to the world and been raised in Christ.
Paul is telling us that we are not to wait for the physical death and resurrection of the body to being living a holy life. We are to put on these godly virtues now. And Paul expounds on what this means.
Bear with one another and forgive whatever grievances you may have with one another. How? As the Lord forgave you. Our forgiveness must be complete. We know that we live in an imperfect world and we will sin, but our relationship with God through Christ Jesus is more important than our sin. It is more important than what wrong someone has done to us. We are brothers and sisters in Christ and we are to bear with one another.
How much must we forgive? Would 7 times be enough? Jesus would say 7 times 70. When we pray as Jesus taught us, we say forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. This should be an affirmation that we have forgiven completely.
Paul next tells us to put on love which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Throughout God’s message to us in his written word and via the Word made flesh, love is always the greatest virtue. Remember in Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth the words so many of us find peace in on a regular basis.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
John tells us that God is love. The very essence and most notable quality of God is love. If we are to live holy lives, we can’t do it without love.
Paul continues that we are to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. If we are ruled by this peace, what ruled before?
Before the peace of Christ ruled in our hearts, what was best—or at least what we thought was best for us—ruled our lives. Christ at best could be second or third in that life. If God is not first in our lives, if the peace of Christ is not guiding our decisions; then God and Christ and the Holy Spirit probably don’t even make the top 10 list for factors that guide our lives. What does?
What I want.
What I think I need.
What my job requires.
Taking care of my family.
Guarding what I have.
Protecting what is mine.
And the list goes on.
It is a list that produces anxiousness. It robs us of our peace. These things are like a sugar fix. They make us feel good in the moment and then are quickly gone. These are like drugs that give a quick high and an enduring hangover.
Only the peace of Christ can rule over us and guard our hearts and minds and leave us in a thankful state.
Paul reminds us that we are one body. How can a body have peace when all of its members seek self gratification?
The peace of Christ must rule. Some commentaries put this in sports metaphor. The peace of Christ is the referee that settles all disputes in favor of love and not self-interest.
Paul continues, Let 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.
Elsewhere Paul might say be filled with the Spirit. The result is a moral and ethical life. We hold each other accountable in the law of love. The fruit of this is noticeable in song. Our thankfulness comes out in the songs of old—we call theme Psalms. Our fruit produces a pleasant aroma in heaven in the songs of the church—that would be the songs of the first century body of Christ that we have added to up to this very day. And surely as we work out our salvation, our own spirit will compose music for the Lord. The psalmist challenged us to sing a new song. With God’s own Spirit within us, we will not be able to contain these songs of thanksgiving and joy.
Paul wraps up this section with this charge.
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.
Only a few lines later in a separate section, Paul writes:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
We have a recipe.
We are clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
We are charged to be patient with one another.
We must forgive as Christ forgave us.
All of our godly virtues are bound together in love.
The teaching of Jesus dwells within us. It is not just intellectual. His teaching permeates our being.
We respond with psalms and songs and hymns and joyful sounds.
This is a recipe for doing everything in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
This is a mixture of virtues for doing everything with thanksgiving to God.
This is surely not meant to be an exclusive list, but for a church struggling with the world trying to stake a claim in what God has called holy, it is a good list for a virtuous life.
It is a good list for living a new life.
It is a good list for living a holy life.
It is a good list for doing all that we do in the name of the Lord.
But the message is not the list. It is not about living according to a list of virtues. It is about everything that we say and everything that we do, we do in the name of Christ.
Paul’s message to these first century churches and to those of us who are a part of the church in this century is to live in the name of the Lord.
For don’t’ we give our very best, when it’s in the name of someone.
Football players can rally to win a game on its way to being lost with a challenge to win one for the Gipper.
Marines charge machine gun nests in the name of the guy next to him.
These momentary heroics lead others to victory.
But our call is not just for the moment. It is a call—a challenge—to live every moment in the name of the Lord.
How do we answer this call? Our answer is to live this life fully for Christ, to throw off the old self and put on the new, victorious self that the world will know by our compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, and by our abiding richly in the teachings of our Master.
Let’s live this life for our Savior.
Let our entire life be words and deeds done in the name of the Lord.