Colossians 2:6–7 NRSV
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
For the longest time I interpreted this text to mean something like, “Go to the gym.” It is hard to overestimate the depth of our formation (particularly as twenty-first-century Americans) in self-help thinking. Our inner mantra, whether we are conscious of it or not, is, “I think I can.” Love them or hate them, we tend to live by those ten most powerful two-letter words, “If it is to be, it is up to me.” And to be sure, in most of life the mantra holds true.
If I want to get in physical shape, it is up to me to stop eating Swiss cake rolls for breakfast and go to the gym instead. It stands to reason, does it not, that if I want to get in spiritual shape, I must wake up earlier, read more Scripture, pray longer, and fast more regularly?
“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord . . .” (v. 6a). So, how did we receive Christ Jesus as Lord? Was that by our effort and strength and willpower? No, it was by grace through faith. Yes, it was a decisive turning of our hearts, minds, strength, and wills to Jesus, but we didn’t bring anything to the table in any sort of quid pro quo arrangement. We freely received. So now what?
. . . continue to live your lives in him . . . (v. 6b)
The Greek word there is peripateo (per-ee-pat-eh-o). It is an ordinary, everyday kind of word that means “to walk around.” In researching this my attention was strangely drawn to Matthew 14:29, which says: “‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”
How perfect is this? Peter could try walking on water for a thousand years. He could practice it, perfect his technique, and fail a thousand out of a thousand tries. And then Jesus says something like, “Come on!” and Peter steps out of the boat and it happens.
This way is made by walking, though it is a different kind of walking altogether. This way Jesus calls us to walk is not about our effort, technique, or spiritual work ethic. So often, in doing these things we unknowingly put our faith in these things. This walk is by grace through faith. It doesn’t begin with our activity but our receptivity.
What if we thought of our spiritual practice not like walking around a track but like walking on water? What if each morning we saw ourselves not as settling into our favorite chair to read the Bible but as standing up in the boat and preparing to walk over the edge, onto the water? (Honestly, that’s what it feels like to write the Daily Text. You can blame the misses on me, but every one that hits can be credited to Jesus.)
I think this is what it looks like for us to be “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (v. 7 NRSV).
We aren’t building ourselves up through our activity. We are being built up in the gift of receptivity, which always begins with the giver. I have waded around in the shallow end of my own activity enough to now know the difference. This is what grace through faith looks like.
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who ever stands on the water and beckons us to “Come on!” Remind me that all of my activity while still in the boat is still just my activity. Come, Holy Spirit, and awaken faith in me to walk out onto the water. I can’t muster this up. I must receive it. I am ready. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
- How do you relate to this notion of walking on water as the everyday practice and experience of our faith versus sitting back in the boat, busy with activity but still in the boat?
- How deep does the self-help mentality go in you? Or, I should say, how deep is your awareness of this mentality in you?
- Do you ever feel like you must build yourself up with your spiritual activity in order for God to be with you?
For the Awakening,