“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”
“which is the bond of perfection [maturity]“
The word “bond” means to bind together, to unite. In this context, “bond” carries the idea of a girdle. This “bond” is not the kind of girdle that redesigns the individual that wears it! In the first century, both men and women wore girdles. Among people of the Near East, the final piece of the dress was the girdle. This was a universal piece of clothing. This garment held together all other articles of clothing.
The “bond” was a broad belt that held all clothes in place. Every soldier wore this wide belt as a sheath for his sword and held his clothes together, among other things. There he carried his rations and breastplate. The “bond” or girdle was a foundational garment that held all garments together. It binds all the graces together and keeps them in their proper place as a girdle. Love ties the other graces together like a broad belt or girdle. Love holds everything together.
Love is unconditional acceptance of others. The Christian is to be “dearly beloved (Co 3:12), as people loved by God, we love others. Since we are dear to the heart of God, our hearts should be dear toward others. We should love as He loves. We are never more like God than when we forgive someone who trespasses against us out of love.
A person who loves combines all characteristics of the Christian life. Without love, the attributes of verses 12 and 13 cannot hold in place. The girdle of love gave beauty and composure to all the graces. It also gave ease of movement to perform the necessary tasks of life.
“Perfection” is the state of perfection, implying the process of maturity. It denotes a fulfillment, completion, perfection, or an end accomplished as the effect of that process (Heb. 7:11; Lk. 1:45). This word for perfection stresses the actual accomplishment of the end in view (here; Heb. 6:1; Judges 9:16,19; Prov. 11:3; Jer. 2:2). This is maturity in both thoughts and behavior (Heb. 6:1). Love binds the characteristics of maturity together in harmony. It is a perfecting quality. It makes for maturity. Love integrates it all into a harmonious whole.
Love gives unity to all characteristics of the Christian life and is, therefore, the mark of spiritual maturity.
How does love tie together such grace as forgiveness? We are out of harmony with God if we have a bitter and unforgiving spirit. God will disqualify us from spiritual work. He cannot do spiritual work with unspiritual people. If a grudge, grievance, or rankling feeling lurks in our hearts, we do not love (James 3:14).
We cannot nurse a grudge and love at the same time. That is why love ties forgiveness into our lives. Granted, someone snubbed you. Sure, someone hurt you. We are still at fault because forgiveness is not forthcoming. Love will cause us to forgive.
God does not call upon us to love with our feeble, synthetic, saccharine, imitation love. He calls upon us to love with His love, out of His love. Inevitably we will not approve of other people. If we love with the love God has given us, a love based on the Word of God, we can love unlovely people. This is a love formed by applying God’s Word. It will help us love others who do not see things as we do. All this amounts to spiritual maturity.