Colossians 1:1–2 NRSV
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from our Father.
Four words from the second verse will offer both picture and frame for this whole project of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Did you catch them?
The big question: Which will be the picture and which will be the frame? Will this Roman city, with its culture and value system, dominate the picture, inviting the Christians and their church to provide a bit of baptismal window dressing for the big show? Or will the in-Christ-ones (i.e., Christians) supply the art, with the cultural context of “in Colossae” serving as the frame? Will those who are “in Christ” really live as if they are “in Christ,” or will they choose to live more like those “in Colossae,” blending into the ever-turning and twisting cultural landscape like a kaleidoscopic chameleon might do?
In every age, from the first century to the twenty-first, there are always two primary alternatives: Will “in Christ” be dominant or will “in Colossae”? There is the prevailing religious system and then there is real Christianity. It’s practical, conventional, and insanely reasonable. The prevailing religious system mimics the real thing at many points, with it’s hat tips to God, public invocations, and Judeo-Christian—based social customs, offering a palatable civic religion most patrons will readily salute.
The issue is not whether we will live in Colossae or not. We must live there or Cincinnati, or Centerville, or wherever it is we have been appointed to live. The question is whether we will live in Christ or not. Will I become a bona fide in-Christ-one? This is the awakening we must have. This begins to happen when our attention turns from our disgruntlement with the insanity around us to our discontent with the incongruity within us. When this awakening becomes greater and greater within us it leads to the awakening becoming greater and greater around us.
That’s Domino#1/2: In Christ in Colossae.
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who would give himself to us so completely that we would become unmistakably like him. Turn my attention from what is wrong with the world to what is wrong in my own life. Come, Holy Spirit, and stir me to a deeper awakening. I want to be “in Christ,” a real Christian. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
- What do you make of this picture-and-frame analogy with respect to “in Christ” and “in Colossae”?
- Are you tired of the conventional religion of cultural Christianity? What ways do you see that “in America” (or your own context) has corrupted what it means to live “in Christ”?
- What will it look like to turn the focus from the problems out there onto your own life and faith?