Colossians 4:6–17 — Everybody Gets to Play
Words matter. Word meaning drifts. Beyond drifting, there is distortion. The meaning of some words can change so much over time that folks abandon using them the way they were originally intended.
Can you think of any words that fit the above description?
Often, when I am writing these reflections, I pause at the opening words I am going to use. Words set a trajectory. My goal is to be helpful. To invite you to think about God’s Word in a way that draws you deeper in your relationship with God through Jesus.
I also know we all have history, and that one little word can set a person down a path that is not helpful. Consider these pairs: religious or spiritual, rules or principles, church or faith. Can you think of others?
Why bring this up? Because the Bible invites everyone into the mix.
If I were to lead with the word church, your background might lead you down any number of paths. You might have fond memories of camp, worship, revival, or even potlucks! Or, you might think of organized religion/institution. You might think of hypocrisy. You might wince at a painful memory.
Not very helpful.
Consider how many of us think about the Letter to the Colossians and its author Paul—or even St. Paul. He is a giant for many. For some he is uptight. Still for others he is neurotic.
Can I just point out though, he is sharing in the work of those people who are following Jesus—and the word for those people is church.
Don’t blow by the closing of this letter. EVERYBODY GETS TO PLAY. There are some familiar names, and some not so familiar.
Luke’s name immediately jumps out (he is the author of a Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles). Then there is the person who will deliver the mail and bring the letter, Tychicus. You can read about him in Acts 20:1-5.
But consider two other names—Onesimus and Nympha—a slave and a woman. Everybody gets to play in God’s Kingdom. In fact, my suspicion is that the way we value people on earth will be turned upside down in eternity. (See Matthew 5:1-11; 19:16-30; 20:16; 21:31-32; 23:12; and Mark 10:42-45, to name a few…)
I started this reflection with the idea of words. If I started with the word church a few of us would have gone to some negative thoughts about rules, exclusion, etc. Yet we know that Jesus invites and involves everyone. Here and here we read of women in leadership positions—bankrolling the effort. Seriously. I am not kidding. These gals are making it financially possible for ministry to advance. Then there is a slave. I know earlier in this letter we read, “slaves obey your masters”— and I imagine some of us winced. But just a few sentences later, a slave is one of the two people to bear witness to the Gospel. (And as a point of reference, back then two witnesses indicated that truth was verified.)
So, what is the point? Most of us (at least me) kind of blow through these verses as perfunctory. It might just seem like a whole lot of “Suzy said to say hi!” and yet, a slow read yields some amazing insight into how this movement of Jesus followers functioned.