Monday, May 07, 2007

Colossians 3:18-4:18

We in Western societies – Americans in particular – live in cultures emphasizing the individual and individual rights to a high, virtually an absolute, degree. We assume and demand autonomy and rights in many spheres of life: business; courts; politics; marriages and families; churches; and more. We chafe against things that limit personal liberty and self-assertion. The suggestion that we should defer and perhaps even submit to another rubs our sense of freedom the wrong way.

Then we come to Paul’s final teachings in his letter to the Christian community in Colossae. Paul focused in the first part of the letter on the sufficiency of Jesus to reveal God to us and to restore us to God, to others, and to true human nature. In the second part of his letter – beginning in chapter 2, verse 16, and especially in chapter 3 following – Paul concentrated on principles and practices for embodying our renewed human nature in the day to day of our situations and relationships.

In what we read today, Paul addressed Christian attitudes and behaviors for household relationships of the first century: wives and husbands; children and parents; slaves and masters. A careful understanding of the foundations and implications of Paul’s instructions would take more space than we have. Yet two key points may help us hear God’s Word to us in these instructions, especially when the cultural mold of unchecked individualism leads us to resist or reject the real value in them.

We find the first point in verse 15, preceding today’s passage: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” Here the “peace of Christ” is primarily relational, not individual, in meaning. It signifies both lack of conflict and robust harmony in relationships. We should try to live into Jesus’ sin-defeating, reconciling, invigorating peace in our relationships – even at cost to our pride, position, and interests. After all, Jesus gave his life to make peace between God and us and between us and others!

We find the second point in verse 23: “as working for the Lord.” Whether our relationships are good, less than ideal, or painfully difficult, we should behave in them as if acting for Jesus. This does not foreclose hoping, praying, and trying for positive change in them. It does mean striving, in grace, to let the heart and mind of Jesus permeate all our hopes, prayers, and actions.

It can be hard to live in peace, for the Lord, in our closest relationships, especially if they are challenging, perhaps even unjust. We all fail God’s goodness and true human nature. Sometimes a little. Sometimes a lot. If in Jesus we devote ourselves to prayer and love, we can begin to shake off the grip of culture, to be molded anew by the Spirit in likeness of our crucified and risen Lord in our selves and our relationships.

Gregory Strong

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Greetings Gregory
I wonder if this might interest you:
About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

Peace Be With You