Colossians 1:1-3 — Letters: Connection, Longing, Purpose
I expect most of us do not receive many personal letters these days. True for you?
My daily mail is made up of flyers, bills, and catalogs. It was not always that way.
Arrival of the daily mail used to create anticipation—perhaps we would receive news from a friend, or even a birthday card!
In the past, letters—connected us.
Depending on how old you are, and where life has taken you, there may have been seasons in your life where you were cut-off from communicating with your family. When I attended college at a military academy, after a while, we were allowed to make one phone call per week to home. I think it was limited to 15 minutes. We lined up at the pay phones.
That discipline was to get us ready for sailing on ships, when weeks would go by without any communication.
In the past, letters—we longed for them.
One day, after my dad had gone to be with the Lord, I was looking through some of the things left.
There was a letter—a letter from his mother to him when he fought in WWII.
The envelope was light, with red, white and blue stripes. The paper was even lighter. They called it “onion skin”. There were so many letters being written to our troops, that the sheer weight of them in total was a concern, and so very thin and light paper was used.
The result was two-fold: you were limited to how many pages you could write, and you made sure what you wrote was most important as it vied for the precious real estate of the stationary.
In the past, letters—their content was purposeful.
Letters were so important that I remember school classes on how to properly construct a letter. Google today “how to write a letter” and you will find articles for the 5 parts, or 6 parts, or 7 parts of a letter.
One part is the salutation (or greeting); it is important. The salutation is more than “Hey there” or “Hi”. The salutation is the opening salvo which begins to connect the author to the addressee. It begins to communicate the longing one has for the other. It may even hint at the overall purpose of the letter.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
When I read it, I must force myself to think about it. This opening is more than “Hi, it’s Paul and Timothy!” I must try and recover the way people in the past would read a letter. They who were longing for communication, would pour over a letter—and the author of the letter knowing this would happen, would pour over composing it.
Let’s try and see what we find.
First, they have never met Paul. While they have never met him, he is no stranger. In their circle, they would have all heard about Paul.
This letter then, would be a surprise. I picture people gathering, and the letter being read out loud—I picture them sitting on the edge of their seats, full of anticipation.
Paul is noting that he is “one who is sent” (the meaning of the word “apostle”), and not sent on a small errand. No—sent as a messenger, an ambassador. Paul is writing to people telling them he is an Ambassador for Christ Jesus. He got this position not by his own will, but the will of God.
You might think him arrogant. Arrogance is not Paul’s intent. He is at once trying to immediately let them know the importance of the communication—he and Timothy have a message from Jesus.
And it is a message for friends—saints and brothers and sisters—a message for those in God’s family.
He goes on to say, “so, don’t worry” – I desire God’s grace and peace for you!
This letter is from an Ambassador of God, and it carries with it a message from God—a message not just for the people of Colossae, but for us as well.