Wednesday, July 21, 2010


We started discussing Colossians in our last night, continuing our approach of reading a whole epistle in a sitting. I now can't imagine approaching Scripture in any other way, as it's really easy to misinterpret verses outside of the whole.

Colossians is, essentially, a manual on how to exist as a church body. It's addressed to the plural "you" (or y'all, as Amanda pointed out) not to the singular "you" that we often focus on as individualists in an individualist society. There's a whole passage about getting rid of anger, rage, maliciousness, greed, slander, etc. (3:5-9) that's just ripe for reading as a personal self-discipline list. But it comes right after a passage (2:16-23) about not getting sucked into rule-oriented behavior that puffs up by requiring devotion and rigid discipline. Paul's point is not personal piety. Rather, it is providing a simple statement about how social groups work: you (y'all) must set aside all that foments disruption by drawing attention to onself, and instead replace it with mutual submission to one another (3:10-25). That's the core of the book. It's not pushing a personal code of conduct, but is describing what does and doesn't work in successful corporate life together.

"Make allowance for each other's faults," Paul says in 3:13. Why don't we see that on a bumper sticker? Does anyone even know that's in the Bible, let alone the central tenet of Colossians? "Let peace rule." "Teach and counsel each other." "Clothe yourselves in humility." "Let your conversation be gracious." "Always be thankful."

You don't do this stuff to earn brownie points or gold stars or gain status, you do it because it's practical in achieving a loving community. If it seems like Paul is full of too many rules and regulations it's because he likes to say the same thing a hundred different ways until it sinks in. There is simply one main point here: since you love Christ, contribute to the healthy life of the church body, which is his family. Make allowance for each other's faults — Paul's just telling it like it is.

1 comment:

  1. Since it is difficult for me to take in a lot of information at one time (as in, a whole epistle), I have often fallen into the trap of "individualistic interpretation." I'd never realized that Colossians was about how to live in community. Thank you for sharing's eye opening and inspiring. Makes me miss Glad you are having good talks without me, though ;o).