During the season of Lent, I am attempting to follow a Bible reading plan and offer reflection on the Scripture text. Today's reading is from Thursday in the 3rd week of Lent. I welcome feedback. What are these Scriptures saying to you?
Colossians 3:1-17 New International Version (NIV)
Living as Those Made Alive in Christ1 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. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
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.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 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 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Paul likes to use a lot of contrasts and comparisons: things above vs. things of earth; death and life; earthly nature vs. divine nature. Yet at the same time, he eliminates contrasts and comparisons: Gentile vs. Jew; circumcised vs. uncircumcised; slave or free.
I find this to be quite interesting and somewhat startling! Those comparisons that Paul eliminates are all the things that humans use to set themselves apart from each other. Things like skin color, economic status, country of origin, language. And what Paul emphasizes are the things that God uses to differentiate those who are followers of Jesus, and those who are not. So in other words, how we define ourselves is MUCH less important than how God defines us!
People today are all about making distinctions on the wrong things and refusing to make distinctions on the things that truly matter. Many want to squash the differences between religions - claiming that Christianity is one among equals in world religions. Or that all religions are simply different paths to the same destination. I don't believe that to be true. And I think Paul argues against that being true. He lived in a culture of syncretic religious philosophies. People living back then made sacrifices to multiple gods, carried charms to ward of evil spirits from multiple religious perspectives. That's why we've had this saying for a long time: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."
Paul, however, consistently pointed towards the "unknown god" who actually was made known through Jesus Christ. And because Jesus has made God known, we find commonality in Him. That commonality is how we live in response to Jesus. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience - those are what we should share across every language, skin color, country of origin, or economic class.
So I'm going to start being more intentional about seeking out those who aren't like me. I want to start using God's standards of differentiation instead of the world's standard. I'm going to work on intentional forgiveness, forbearance, and patience. Will you join me?