Community in Colossians

Friendship with Christ Changes Every Other Friendship.

As I walk through Colossae’s marketplace, I hear the familiar “Wool for sale! Dyed with genuine local chalk!” called out to passersby. I need some wool, but I won’t be buying anything today; It’s the Lord’s day, and I’m on my way to meet with my new brothers and sisters. 

My city is a shell of its former self in its heyday. The elders loved to recall the days when Colossae was a very prominent city. Unfortunately, repeated destruction from earthquakes was too much to recover from. 

I picked up my pace thinking of what would be happening in the house church today. A renowned leader known as the Apostle Paul had written to our family. Word spread that Epaphras had made the trek all the way to Rome to meet with him!

Rounding a corner, I arrive at my destination. The room is dimly lit and stuffy. The strange collection of people present is truly a cultural marvel. I’m still not used to it.

Despite our differences, we all have one vital friend in common: The Risen Christ. 

Tychicus arrived with the letter from Paul. None here had met him yet, so it was understood that this message must be important if he took the time to craft the document. Yet many were skeptical . I leaned in, eager to learn more about Jesus and the new family He created which revolutionized our lives.

Tychicus gestured as if conducting the room; the chatter dissipated. Drawing a breath, he began to read.

Friendship with Christ creates one new Body

”Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae.” (1:1,2)

It didn’t take very long for Paul’s letter to get radical. I remember the first time I heard Epaphras (1:7) teach. I balked at hearing Roman citizens refer to Jews as their brothers and sisters! Though I am but a slave with little honor to call my own, any connection with a Jew would have brought shame to my family. But since my master hosted Epaphras and his meetings, I was exposed to the teachings of Christ. As creator (1:16) and Lord of all, Christ has the authority to make a new Body (1:18); a new group of people.

Observing the room, I saw proof of this radical shift: Slaves who own little more than the clothes on their back, and masters who once thrived on taking advantage of them. Women previouslyseen at the cult temple (3:5), and men once known for lies and deceit (3:9). Some are Greek, others zealous Jews (3:11). 

As a slave, it took some time getting used to eating at the same table as the master of the house (4:1); to look him in the eyes and see a smile rather than condescension. But now we are friends and most wouldn’t believe it until they saw it with their own eyes.

Friendship with Christ creates peace

I listened in awe as Tychicus eloquently presented an exalted image of our resurrected Lord.

“20 …and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, ” (Colossians 1:20,21).

Before I heard and understood the gospel (1:5,6), peace was far from me. My mind was full of aggression, and all my actions revealed it. This was my old self (3:10). The daily snubs from my master infuriated me. Then I learned about the Christ and His death. He took on my shame to give me His honor! He did this so we, his enemies, could have His peace in our hearts (3:15). Incredible! I know its true because I see how His power has changed all who He brings into His family.

Friendship with Christ creates New Life

“ 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.” (Colossians 2:13) 

When the Christ made the cosmos (1;16) He made life out of the darkness, flourishing from emptiness. Now He has done the same to me! My many trespasses were proof of the fact that I was truly dead. Yet God has brought me to life! Just as Christ was raised, so am I. I was born into one family, and born again into a family full of people whom I’d have never spoken to as my old self. Now I am truly alive. Praise be to God.

“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.” (Colossians 4:18)

Silence. That was a lot for us to take in all at once. Now for my favourite part. After receiving teachings, we discuss them. Then plan for how to put off the old and put on the new (3:9b,10).

Friends point out lies

“ 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments… 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2: 4,8) 

We knew almost immediately what Paul had been referring to when he spoke of these deceitful philosophies. We were already wary of those who were hoping to keep the Law and add Christ to it. Paul clearly showed us these were not benign teachings. We all agreed we were thankful for his insights. We need to steer clear of these ideologies—Ideologies which minimized the greatness of our Lord.

Friends show us how to elevate Christ

“19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” (Colossians 2:19)

Others shared they had taken flak for expressing skepticism: “Is it really necessary to keep all the Jewish festivals?”(2:16). They were thankful to learn that they were right to uphold that Christ had fulfilled all those rites; they all pointed to Him (3:17)! Slipping away from putting our Lord in His proper place leads us away from God and from bearing fruit (1:6,10).

Friends teach each other

“16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

We laughed together as we realized that this is what we were doing in this meeting! Paul taught us and we are teaching each other. I wouldn’t understand nearly as much if I tried to dwell on Christ’s words on my own. There’s no way I could be able to overcome my immoral past without my new family giving me a kick in the tunic when I start thinking like my old self again (3:5,9). Its not easy when Someone enters your life and turns every single area on its head. I’m friends with the master I used to happily slander!

When it seemed like everyone had shared their thoughts on Paul’s letter, we thought it would be a great opportunity to sing about our Saviour. Having been strongly reminded of His supremacy over everything, our hearts were overflowing with joy. 

I say goodbye to my new brothers and sisters and head through the streets back to my home. The wool peddlers have long since closed shop for the day, and the market is still. As I walk, I find myself humming a bar from the song in Paul’s letter. “And through Him to reconcile to himself all things” (1:20). Life is not easy as a Christ-follower, but I know that I’m not in it alone; we are knit together in love, and as one body, we will grow together (2:2,19; 3:14).