A great passage to choose, because it begins with God's 'yes' to his people: "Holy, dearly beloved, chosen".
God has given us so much: he has given us this life and love and each other. And even though we have walked out on him and badly messed things up, he has not walked out on us. He has given us Jesus Christ his Son, forgiveness, new life, hope of heaven. He has given us 'All things'.
And this 'yes' of God to his people is the starting point of all healthy relationships
1. It sets us free to love
Paul writes, "Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience"
Because God has said 'yes' to us, we can say 'yes' to each other. We don't need to prove ourselves.
I remember hearing a couple interviewed who had reached their 80th wedding anniversary. It was a record. He was asked the secret of the success of their marriage. He replied, "Two words .. Yes, dear".
But he is right. The secret of a healthy marriage is that it is built on both partners saying to the other, "Yes, dear".
It is about a commitment to each other - to build up and not to pull down (illustration of Rugby player and dodgy footballer; 'If you wish to be married to a princess, treat her like one'; honeymoon story)
And this is a commitment bigger than feelings: it is there when the feelings are there, but it is about a commitment even when the feelings are not there.
It is a 'yes' that gives itself to the other.
People say that marriage is about give and take: no, it is about give and give and give and give, and when you have given everything that there is to give, you give again.
It is about giving time: time to be together, to do what the other person chooses to do, to go where they would go. And yes it is about taking time to be romantic and intimate.
It is about giving emotional support: being there for the other, being open with the other - especially in the dark times. Many of us can be like vacuum cleaners that are never emptied. We take into ourselves all the rubbish, but never allow ourselves to be emptied out. And we eventually clog up. It really is all about 'communication, communication, communication'
It is about giving encouragement: 'You look good', 'you did that well'. Not taking the other person for granted
It is about giving yourself. In marriage, you cease to belong to yourself. You belong to the other person. They are quite literally, 'your other half'.
2. This love of God for us, this 'yes' of God to us, sets us free to forgive
"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.
and Paul continues, "Forgive as the Lord forgave you". It is when I realise just how much I have been forgiven that I am set free to forgive.
Forgiveness is foundational to good relationships, and marriage is the ideal place to learn to say sorry and to forgive.
I don't know how you are with conflict.
Some people are eskimos. They freeze each other out.
Some people are cowboys. They throw cups of tea across the room
It doesn't matter that we get angry. What matters is what we do with our anger.
Someone said of their marriage: "We don't have rows. We collect grudges. We stockpile them in preparation for the domestic armageddon".
The bible says the opposite: "Do not let the sun go down on your anger"
And Ogden Nash reinterpreted the teaching of the bible on forgiveness:
"To keep your marriage brimming
with love in the marriage cup,
whenever you're wrong admit it,
whenever you're right, shut up"
How do we live this way? How do we remain rooted in the the 'yes' of God.
Paul gets practical and urges three things
1. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts
Let that awareness of the love, forgiveness, acceptance and purpose of God control your heart. We talk about letting Jesus come into our hearts. I'm not quite sure how you imagine that: my heart is a lump of muscle in here - but we know what it is saying: ask him to come and live in us, and to control our thoughts, our words and actions. That is the basis of real life.
2. Let the message of Christ dwell in your minds
Get to know and hold on to the good news of the love of God, of the presence of Jesus, of his word and his guideline for living.
Grow in your understanding. Remind one another of it. Meet with God's people. Encourage one another. Grow in obedience.
3. Give thanks
Give thanks to God for his 'yes', for each other, for the gift of the other. Thankfulness drenches this passage (v15,16,17)
Give thanks in the good time and the difficult times; when your prayers are answered and when it seems that your prayers are not answered.
Why? Because we are told that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose .. and that nothing can separate us from the love of God.