Are You In the Picture or Are You the Frame?

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?

in Christ

in Colossae

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.


  1. What do you make of this picture-and-frame analogy with respect to “in Christ” and “in Colossae”?
  2. 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”?
  3. What will it look like to turn the focus from the problems out there onto your own life and faith?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
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Comments and Discussion

4 Responses

  1. My response to question #1: We are all in the world; are we also of the world or are we of Christ?
    Response to question #2: I’ve come to the realization that I must make a choice between True Christianity and a conflation of Christianity with “The American Dream “. It’s like mixing oil with water, they can never become one unified substance.
    Response to question #3: It will mean an intentional effort to fellowship with like-minded believers in order to hold one another accountable to our covenant with Christ and one another. It will require an openness to share our struggles with temptation and sin. It will require a more devoted prayer life, both individually and gathered, with brothers and sisters in Christ. It will require the Spiritually enabled boldness to speak the truth in love.

  2. I woke up with the following thought on my mind this morning and posted it on Facebook before I read your first “Domino Effect” post:

    “Jesus said: I will build My town meeting (ekklesia in Greek). Now He calls citizens of His kingdom to gather in His name to learn to be led by His Spirit.”

    Living in Colossae (or any other city, culture, or country) surrounded by its social structures and values, only an ongoing inner renewing can prevent Christians from becoming subconsciously molded and conformed into its image. Those in Christ need to gather regularly apart from the world’s town meetings and the peer pressure that surrounds them. Instead, Christians need to continually gather as Jesus’ town meeting in order to practice the 50+ New Testament “one another” commands (according to the example of 1 Corinthians 14:26) in order to remind each other of and to experience together, our supernatural citizenship in the kingdom of God.

  3. The world (other people) and I have the exact dilemma-the sinful nature. No treaty, agreement, document, or handshake will change the sinful nature’s curse of selfish, unrighteous nature in which all are born. Only by being born again in Christ will an individual become a new creature, no longer bound by the sinful nature of sin. However, we must then cultivate the new birth by continuing mature under our new Father, God.
    Unfornituly, we can do this for anyone else, just as no one else could do it for me.
    Being in Christ is the picture. Right now, the frame of the world is larger than the picture. Our calling is to show others that being in the picture is better than who they were created to be (the Great Commission). When others enter the picture, the frame becomes smaller. Does the number of daily newborns (born in sin) who are unaware of Christ outnumber the daily number of people born again by confessing Christ as Lord and Savior?
    Even though the war is won, the battle continues.
    Praise the Name of the Lord

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