By Rev. Keith E. Lawder, GUMF President/CEO
“So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” - Colossians 3:1-2
Ok, I’ll admit it. Colossians is not my favorite book in the Bible. It comes up right after Philippians, so I couldn’t avoid it while reading through the Bible in one year. It is a so-called disputed letter of Paul that uses challenging language. And there is no evidence that Paul ever went to Colossae. Yet, the early church saw it as authentic and critical for inclusion in the Canon.
Colossae was in decline in the late first century when Paul wrote the letter. It had been a center of commerce for the wool trade located miles upriver from Turkey’s Aegean Coast. Three hundred years earlier, the Roman emperor relocated several thousand Jews to avoid hassles over taxes. At the writing of this letter, there were controversies in the community, especially between the Jews who acknowledged Jesus as Messiah and the Gnostics who believed that only the spirit was good and the body was evil. So, what you did with your body did not matter. That’s an oversimplification, but it’s easy to see how different versions of the truth led to disputes and even violence.
It struck me as I read through the letter that there are some rather poignant similarities between Colossae and the situation here today. Indeed, the COVID-19 crisis has added pressure, grief, and urgency to our lives beyond anything we’ve ever experienced. At the same time, it feels like we are at odds with each other more than ever before over the question, “what is truth?”
My mother was very wise. Once when I came home with a crazy tale of how one of my friends just knew that the Martians had landed and had bad things in mind, my mother smiled and said, “Well, consider the source. Where did he hear about that?” It turned out that the Martian news came from a comic book. Paul writes in Colossians 3:1-2, “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
So, where do we get our truth these days? Is it from network news, written publications, or the internet? It's only natural to pay more attention to “news,” which is consistent with how we feel.
Scripture warns us about contextualizing truth. Words do matter. Paul says, and I believe he is right, “that we need to aim high. We need to seek the things that are above, where Christ is.”
Amid the pandemic, the elections, the school challenges, natural disasters, and all the bad stuff that has been going on, there are still miracles, heroes, self-sacrifice, and acts of grace. It would have been so easy for the folks at Colossae to succumb to the purveyors of false truths. Instead, they chose the better way: to focus on Christ.
It used to be popular to wear a bracelet with the letters W.W.J.D that reminded the wearer to think about “What Would Jesus Do” in any given situation. If we truly seek Christ; if we truly seek absolute truth; if we truly believe the Gospel, then we can see current events as opportunities to witness by our deeds and words; opportunities to witness to the truth.