In today’s reading, Paul is contrasting the secular world, which consists of captivity “through philosophy and deceit”, and the world of the risen Lord in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” In the days of the early Church, it was so difficult for the apostles, who planted these churches, to stay in any one place to help the fledgling Christian community stay true to their calling. The letter Paul wrote to the Colossians was his attempt to warn them against allowing behaviors which would take them away from the Christ-centered path that Paul taught.
The imagery of the words in today’s reading are interesting to me in that Paul uses the image of captivity and condemnation. He uses terms such as allowing others to disqualify the Colossians from a life with Christ. He speaks as to how Christ erases the record of legal demands which stood against us. He uses the word regulations more than once when talking about the secular ways of the world. He says that Jesus, in His death on the cross, disarmed the rulers and authorities and triumphed over them.
The inference is that the secular way is a life of captivity to the “elemental spirits of the universe”. But, living in the fullness of the risen Lord brings freedom and everlasting life. Paul is not saying that Christians should not follow the law. Although he does not specify this difference, he describes the legalism of the secular world as “regulations which refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings.” Paul goes on to say that the human world has the “appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility and severe treatment of the body.”
When I read these words I think immediately of the high priests and rulers of the Jews who condemned Jesus to death. Jesus was not teaching the Jews to turn against their religion. He was teaching them the reasons why their temple leaders were not the God-loving believers that they pretended to be.
So, for me, today’s reading reminds me to stay sharp so that I can recognize the difference between the elements of our world that lead to captivity and the elements of our world that would lead me to freedom and eternity with God.