Colossae was, in comparison to Laodicea and Hierapolis, a small town. It was about 100 miles east of the Greater Ephesus Metropolitan Area.
Most folks who think about such things believe it is likely that, during Paul’s 3 year service in Ephesus, a couple of small town guys (Epaphras and, perhaps, Philemon) became followers of Christ and then they were God’s instruments to carry this incredibly Good News back home to their friends and family. As those believers covenanted to one another a Church was born… more likely Churches were born, birthed, and reproduced!
Like most churches, then and now, there were some Holy Spirit breathed, transformational moments occurring among/through the believers there as well as some trouble brewing. In the case of the churches of Colossae, the troublesome issue was what seminarians and theologians call syncretism.
Think about it: there were people in this quaint community who had Jewish backgrounds (outside-of-Jerusalem Jews), folks from a variety of Greek cultures, and people described as native Phrygians – an older kingdom from the mountain regions of modern-day Turkey… since I am one, I’d say, think of them as Hillbilly’s with a little mountain magic in their suitcase.
Each of these groups of people had been raised with their own family holidays and religious holy days. Most of their festivals, celebrations and rituals were practiced to get the attention of the gods, or appease the anger of some god, and so forth.
Now they hear this wonderful Good News of the One, True God who loves them and graciously welcomes them into His Kingdom by means of His One and Only Son!
They run to God, embrace Christ, are filled with His Spirit, experience confessional and forming community around the common-unity of Christ… but they bring with them a trunk full of prior life experiences, thoughts, theologies, and so forth.
What they very naturally wanted to do was to incorporate their own ideas and habits into this new faith… syncretism – to reconcile different beliefs by mixing and blending.
What God’s Spirit knew, and therefore challenged them regarding, was that the longer they went down that path, the further they went away from the God who loved them so. Their motives may have been good, but they were headed in the wrong direction.
What the people who were the churches of Colossae needed to do was take a fresh hold on Christ – finding that the tighter they gripped Him, the less strength they would have to hold on to those other things.
In fact, this is the theme of the whole book: hold fast to Christ! I love that. If you’ve read To Have and To Hold From This Day Forward, you know that I’m drawn to analogies of the Church that are more organic – the images that focus on an experiential, relational, intimate connection between Christ (the Groom) and the Church (His Bride). So, I am completely warmed to this notion of Jesus – the Head of the Church (not head of an organization, but the Head on a Body – the Church).
Remembering that as you read the whole letter helps a lot. But, wow, does it ever come alive when you get to what we call chapter 3.
In the article ‘Discipleship,’ in the Oxford Handbook of Evangelical Theology Dallas Willard argues that there is no one single passage of Scripture that is a more concise picture of living life as a disciple of Jesus than that found in Colossians 3:1-17.
None? I’m not qualified to agree/disagree with this (and I am certain that my agreeing or not would be of no concern for Dr. Willard). But, I do agree that these verses are an excellent place to settle for a bit.
And, that’s exactly what I’ve done. From mid-January until now, I’ve found myself sitting with God around those 17 verses. Since Blog is shorthand for web-log, which is simply an online journal, it seemed altogether right for me to write from those conversations on occasion.
So, this will be a series over time, more like the toggling between Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies than like watching the 3 Star Wars movies in a row or the 4 Indiana Jones movies in a row. [And, yes, I know there were 6 Star Wars movies, but I do not count the last 3.]
I would not pretend that these are deep, theological white papers to be posted, printed, or read alongside the grand treaties of old. They are exactly what a Blog is – an online journal, a dynamic expression of the things God is saying to me right now through these verses. They are offered on the outside chance it might be something God would like to say to you.
As you read, please bear with me… I’m in process – a person already formed in the timelessness of eternity but who is forming in our limited here-and-now world.
That is an up-front apology for the rambling and jumping around that might appear when these articles are all said and done.
This entry is just an introduction – a reminder that the kinds of folks that made up the churches who first read this letter are the same kinds of folks who make up my church and yours. That’s good to know.
Between now and my first journal-entry, I’d like to invite you to join me in reading those 17 verses with God’s Spirit, asking Him to speak into our lives and challenge what we have always thought about Church.