I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
And so it ends. Colossians is in the books. Before we leave it behind, I wanted to revisit a few of my favorite highlights. Let’s tip these dominoes one more time.
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 God our Father. (Col. 1:1–2 NRSV)
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 my attention turns from my disgruntlement with the insanity around me to my discontent with the incongruity within me. When this awakening becomes greater and greater within us it leads to the awakening becoming greater and greater around us.
In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. (Col. 1:3–6 NRSV)
To be sure, the gospel is the message of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, but in a far greater sense, the gospel is who Jesus Christ is to us and in us and through us for the world. The gospel is not a body of knowledge about who God is and what God has done. It is actually knowing God.
May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col. 1:11–14 NRSV)
I think I used to think I didn’t need to be rescued, that I wasn’t one of those kinds of people. Sure, I knew I was a sinner, but not that bad. I just needed a little Sunday school-esque straightening of the collar. Now I know better. The kind of sinner I thought I was is actually the worst kind of sinner because we think since we didn’t ride the Titanic to the bottom of the ocean we somehow don’t need as much grace as the ones who did. Now I recognize this as a lie from the pit of hell. The dominion of darkness is oh-so-deceptive. We all must be rescued, especially me. In fact, I will never become a real Christian until I know I am a real sinner.
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. (Col. 1:15–16)
We must see Jesus. We were made to behold him. His life, not in general but in a thousand specifics, must become our vision. His preexistence, preeminence, conception, birth, life, words, deeds, miracles, relationships, signs, sermons, parables, prayers, suffering, passion, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, return, and eternal reign must become our holy obsession. This is the message Paul offers the Colossians and the Columbians, the Americans and the Africans, and everyone else. We must see Jesus. We must fix our gaze upon him.
I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col. 2:2–3)
The way is together. Here’s the part that is not apparent to those of us who happen to be twenty-first-century Americans. When Paul identifies the mystery as “Christ in you,” what he really means is “Christ in y’all.” The you, as is the case so often in the New Testament, is plural. The New Testament rarely addresses me as an isolated, individuated, privatized person. To be sure, God addresses me personally, but my identity is not primarily as an individual. In fact, this is more a sign of my brokenness. I simply cannot know who I am outside of my relationship with God. And here’s the kicker: I can’t know God apart from other people. That’s where we want to push back.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (Col. 3:5).
What would it mean to walk that last mile, escorting my sins to the death chamber? How many times have you walked your sins to the death chamber only to walk them back to the cell again?
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Col. 3:12)
Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience aren’t virtues to which we must aspire. No, they are our uniform. Think of them as the pads a football player wears in order to play the game. Mustn’t this be what Paul means when he says, “clothe yourselves”?
The dominoes keep on tipping. May they never stop.
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who is the Word behind every word of your Word. Make me a person of this Word, all the days of my life. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
- What insight(s) do you take away from this journey through Colossians?
- What are the implications of this insight(s)?
- What intention(s) do you carry forward?
For the Awakening,