Thursday, September 22, 2011

Colossians 3: Some historical background, and applications from my breakfast

Some interesting background on Colossians. If it reads a lot like Ephesians and Philippians, it's because Paul wrote all three while under house arrest in Rome. Unlike Ephesus and Philippi, however, Colosse in Asia Minor (Turkey) was a podunk town, its glory days as a trade crossroads long gone. (Just this morning in the Free Press I was reading of another outerwear manufacturer leaving Williston for the ski manufacturing hub of Portland, Maine. Colosse then, Vermont now.....) Anyway, Paul's Ephesian convert Epaphrus planted a church there, and then visited Paul in Rome, telling him about the gnostic/judaizing plague infecting his sheep. So Pastor Paul - perhaps Bishop Paul here in a hierarchical sense, which is probably forcing things a little - pens a letter that blends specifics and "boilerplate."

As noted in earlier blog posts, Paul likes to draw a straight line from Christian identity to Christian morals, and in verse 3:1, he does it again:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

 I found it helpful to replace "you" with "Guy" to make it more personal, as if Paul were give me personal direction.

 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
9 Whoa! Paul, how did you know that I went three-for-five on the Flesh-O-Meter when I dropped my toast, loaded with Becky Graeter's wonderful zucchini marmalade, on the kitchen floor this morning? Anger, rage, filthy language. Sometimes it is good to not have a wife to apologize to. Anyway, I apologized to God.
Interesting too that Paul speaks in an imperative: "rid yourselves". Commands like this that give me a headache when I think about hyper-Calvinism. God so clearly expects us to choose holiness, to co-operate, co-labor, with the Spirit of holiness and grace unto obedience and conformity to His image. There is nothing passive about holiness! I get tired of hearing people say "just let Jesus do it" or "wait on God" to perfect me. Yes, yes - but He expects me to do my part, which is to take my own little will and say "Yes Lord"! And having drawn me to that point, He then supplies the power through the Word, the Spirit and the encouragement and testimony of my brothers and sisters.
Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Verse 11 above is the foundation for one of the verses of the "The Great Reunion" which I sang again at Jericho last week. Pursuant to Pastor Andersen's sermon about loving Moslems because God loves them too (although not their faith), I changed it to "there's no Jew or Moslem in this place, no rich or poor are here; no black white brown or yellow, just friends and family dear; no Catholic or Protestant, shackled man or free; our all in all is Jesus, at last one family, at the Great Reunion."
As I wrote a day or two ago, I have been struck this year by Paul's uber-focus on unity and its importance in some mysterious battle in the heavenly places. He states below that unity is NOT just theological unity - although that is important - it is the unity of the Hallmark of the Believer, interpersonal love and peace:
 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16
Reading below I now know what kind of music Paul would want sung in church......ANY kind of music that is sung "with gratitude in your hearts".  
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17
Perhaps including gratitude for my brothers and sisters who prefer different music? Well, I'm glad we've settled that unity-killer......

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