Looking back at Colossians.
Well, here we are, having just finished studying Colossians. We have taken two months to look at Paul’s letter to the church at Colosse, moved by the love of Paul for young Christians he had never even met.
Remember? Paul conveys his heart as he writes from a Roman prison, ‘live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God’ (1.13). Paul teaches the utter supremacy of Jesus Christ as the ‘visible expression of the invisible God. He existed before creation began, for it was through him that everything was made, whether spiritual or material, seen or unseen.’ (1.15-16)
And admonishes us to stay the course—‘stand firmly in the truth of the gospel and do not drift,’ (1.23) warning not to let anyone take us ‘captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.’ (2.8) Instead, Paul said, ‘Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.’ (3.1-2)
You, my friends in Jesus Christ, are chosen … chosen by God. ‘Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love…’ (3.12-14) Surely, these verses should be a mandate for Christian living! By the way, did you don your ‘kindness underwear’ when you got dressed today? Memorize that verse, Friends—as a note to self: ‘clothe myself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.’ Yes, yes, yes!
‘Submit. Love. Obey. Do not aggravate. Serve. Work…’ and ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.’ (3.18-25) ‘Devote yourself—give yourself to--prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.’ (4.2) Because when we work, we work, but when we pray, God works! Prayer is an expression of who we are …a living incompleteness … a gap, an emptiness that calls for fulfillment.* Prayer moves the hand of God, and lets us know he did not leave us alone in this world, to ‘go it’ without him. “Come,” the Father bids us … “Come and meet with me, because I am here to meet with you.” Give God some quiet in your life, and listen for his voice—it may come through his still, small voice, it may come in a dream, a ‘knowing’ deep within you, through other believers, and always—God’s heart is conveyed to you from the pages of Scripture.
‘Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity’ to tell others of the great love of God for them.’ (4.5) Do you make the most of opportunities to tell others about Jesus—about how different life can be, when lived with Jesus, for him, and in him? Oh, how empty the life that does not have God in it . . . how vacuous, how meaningless.
‘Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.’ (4.6) How powerful are your words! Why, every time you speak, you might speak life—words of encouragement, or indictment—words of criticism or spite, something with meaning, or that which is meaningless. Choose well.
And finally, Paul signs off his letter to the Colossians, sending greetings and commendations for those whom he valued, because even when imprisoned, community mattered to Paul. Friends were the instruments of God to minister and care for him. I pray that you have good friends, I pray that you are a good friend! As surely as God gave Jonathan to David, he has a friend or friends in mind for you, my dear ones.
Good Bye, Colossian brothers. How blessed you were to be loved and taught by Paul!
* – Thomas Merton