Colossians Wrap-up: Light Bulb Moments
Colossians 1 – 4
Sometimes I get to the middle of something, get stuck, and then everything is clear. I realize that the answer was present from the beginning. Does that ever happen to you?
It is that moment when the proverbial light bulb is turned on, and all that seemed dark and obscure, is now plainly in sight.
Reading Colossians has, for me, been very much like this kind of situation.
I was writing, trundling along, enjoying the vaulted language of chapter one and taking in the encouragement to hold fast in chapter two. Yet when I hit chapter three, I came face to face with what, for me, are the two thoughts that seem to continuously spin for followers of Jesus.
If I have accepted Jesus, then why do I keep on sinning? (The corollary is: if I am still sinning, have I truly accepted him?)
If following Jesus is about grace and love, then all this talk of putting sin to death seems like work... and even worse, it seems like we are keeping laws, and isn’t all that the opposite of grace?
As I stared at those two bullets, there were two questions that ran through both. First, does God really love me, even when I say I love Him—but my actions don’t match? Second, do I have to work, and if I work, am I somehow not understanding how grace works?
Maybe you live in a different world than me, but these two thoughts are seemingly spinning about continuously in discussions with Jesus’ followers.
Which is why I am thankful that we have, in some ways, been sitting and soaking in the letter to the Colossians.
Taking my time through this letter allowed that light bulb moment to happen. The switch did not get thrown right away. No, I had to muddle through it a bit.
But then it happened. You could tell when my reflections starting having Part One, and Two, and even Three.
The illumination revealed Colossians has a straight line running right through my issues. It starts with the great news that the folks in Colossae are following Jesus, terrific! (1:1-14) It then moves to reinforce that Jesus is God (1:15-19). And that you and I have been put right with God (1:20-29). In chapter two Jesus’ divinity, as well as our standing with God is reinforced—and we are warned to not dilute the pure love that God offers. And Colossians 3 gets to the heart of the matter.
After all this cogitating, it finally hit me. I know, we know, exactly what the situation is, and I need to stop complicating it.
In our world, we manage these situations all the time, and so I borrowed the metaphor about muscle memory and stopped complicating the message.
Regarding God’s Love, and not living up to His standards, we know what it is like to be part of group, to take on the identity of that group on our first day, and realize we aspire to its ideals. We do this all the time and never doubt our standing in that group.
Regarding our working to become better, and not feeling as if we are rejecting grace, we similarly know all about the kind of effort we need to expend to achieve difficult goals.
Once I stopped over-complicating the situation, chapter three pointed out to me just how serious it is to keep letting sin stay in my life. Action phrases such as “Put sin to death” and “Put on love” strongly communicated my need to pay attention.
There was another moment, I think for me equally important—it was the moment in chapter four where I realized that disconnecting daily reality of the lessons of chapter three from life, would lead me to demand behaviors from others which I myself so often failed at. It was the section about husbands, wives, kids, etc. It is so easy for me to read those verses and have some sort of sense of entitlement about my rights, rather than be cut to the heart regarding where I can do better as far as my own responsibilities are concerned.