Colossians 2:20–23 NRSV
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.
Rules don’t work. Of course, they are necessary and they have value, but if they are all we have, we don’t have much. Rules can protect us from ourselves and each other. They can create some semblance of external order, but they do not change people. Rules can govern human behavior, but they have no power to order the affairs of our minds and hearts.
People often identify themselves as being either rule followers or rule breakers, and both with equal degrees of pride. We do not need rules. What we need is a Ruler. The lordship of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with following the rules and everything to do with following the Ruler.
This way of following the Ruler is the way of the cross—the path of death and resurrection. Note how today’s text begins, “If with Christ you died . . .” (v. 20a NRSV). To die with Christ means we have renounced self-rule and surrendered ourselves to the person of Jesus. FULL STOP.
Most self-avowed Christians have never done this. They have, instead, adopted a form of Christian faith without the power. Consider how we talk about becoming a Christian. We speak of one accepting Christ, as though we were accepting a software agreement online. Where is this in the Bible? It is minimalism.
If one was a rule keeper before they accepted Christ, then they become a legalistic Christian. If one was a rule breaker before, then she becomes a licentious Christian. Neither has changed. No, they have merely baptized their way of life in Jesus’ name. There is no orientation to the Ruler, only the rules.
Paul is dealing with a community of people who want to be real Christians but who are getting caught in all the predictable traps. These traps are as operative now as they were then. There are the philosophers and their fine-sounding arguments; the super-spiritualists and their special revelations; the rule followers and the rule breakers; the conservatives and the liberals.
Paul knows we are dealing with something far deeper than human behavior. He knows the rules hold no power against self-indulgence and the seductive wiles of our appetites. He knows only the presence of the Ruler himself in the depths of our innermost selves can transform the human mind and heart. He knows death and resurrection is the only way.
Domino #2/20 moves us from the rules to the Ruler, preparing the way for mountain-moving movement.
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who leads us in the way of death that we might find truth of resurrection and live from the depths of the very life of God in our deepest selves. I cannot find this way apart from you. Please take me by the hand and lead me in this way, every day of my life. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
- So how about it . . . are you a rule follower or a rule breaker? What do you learn about yourself from that? Ever notice how rule breakers and rule followers each think they are superior to the other? Why is that?
- What do you make of this difference between death-and-resurrection Christians and those who merely baptize their old way of life in Jesus’ name?
- Have you renounced self-rule and surrendered your life to the person of Jesus Christ? Is it time to get back in touch with that surrender?
For the Awakening,