The world is getting crazier and crazier.//// People are discontent. Searching for answers to salvation/satisfaction/fulfillment. Paul has two words in the 2nd verse (Col. 1:2) that describe a great need and a great desire! Grace is the need. Peace is the desire.
The great need is GRACE. Most people try to navigate life without grace. A do it yourself, trying to figure out how to achieve success, satisfaction… We all need grace because we are not capable of controlling our destiny. We do not have the power or the wisdom. Our vision is limited. We need grace because we are sinners.
The great desire of all people: PEACE. “Grace and peace to you from our Father” (Col. 1:2). No drama. No conflict. No wars. No pain. Contentment. Purpose.
Grace and Peace are gifts from God. You will only be granted meaningful life changing grace and peace from our heavenly father!
In this letter Paul underscores the importance of Christian faith, living for Christ alone, holding Jesus Christ up as the only way to salvation, the only one who changes lives, the only one who has the power to shower grace and peace upon all who turn to Him.
There is no doubt the people of Colossae are Christians. Yet it is obvious as you read this letter Paul is concerned they are being pulled in directions away from Jesus ~~ watering down the faith. Kinda like being a Christian but hedging your bets and checking in on your daily horoscope ~ it’s harmless you say, can’t hurt, kinda fun…Several decades ago when I lived in S.F. I met a woman who told me she believed in everything, every religion, every teaching, every philosophy. “Tell me what you believe as a Christian” she told me, “I want to add it to what I believe.”
Colossians challenges us to affirm the exclusive claims of Christ….
Today’s scripture: I see the Bible as primarily pastoral in nature. Truth about God/Christ is never written for it’s own sake like the Bible is an encyclopedia of theology. The books of the Bible address problems. Truth/theology emerges in the context of real life. Colossians is such a letter. Paul writes as a pastor. As I go around Sumas and the Foothills, I talk to people about their specific life situation, problems, needs. I do my best to talk about what faith means in the context of real life!
In Col. 1:2 is a tiny detail, a single word, with a huge impact. Easy to read past the word and not even notice. When you read the whole letter obviously the people are tempted to water down their faith, compromise their commitment to Christ. But Paul is saying a tremendous amount when he describes the Christians in Colossae as HOLY: “To God’s HOLY people...” Holy. Set apart. Belonging to God. This is amazing! When you read the letter we find out the people are becoming wishy washy in their faith, yet Paul declares them from the very outset to be HOLY.
As a pastor/Christian servant in this community, I know 100’s of people that I want nothing more than to see them grow in their faith, living as Christians, so that Christ impacts what they do, how they think, their emotions. But the place to begin is to understand that no matter where a person is, if they have even the tiniest bit of faith, even a smidgeon of a heart for God, they are HOLY. I don’t have to understand them. I don’t need to get all the crazy decision making of people! It’s as if Paul is saying, “no matter what I am about to say to you the Church of Colossae, you are HOLY, you are loved by God, you are set apart, you are the saints of God.”
Paul could have chosen to dump all over the people of Colossae for flirting with a compromised faith; instead he begins by declaring them to be HOLY. Paul looks for the good in the people of Colossae. Listen again to the words of Col. 1:1-8. READ. Pause and explain v. 1, 2… walk through 3-8.
Always look for the good in others. Our calling as a church is to affirm people in our community. Love people. Serve people. Go to people. Be the hands of feet of Jesus. Preach the Kingdom that is here now and the Kingdom that is coming. The problem when you begin to get in the lives of people is that it is easy to get frustrated, to write people off, to give up too soon, to demand that which they are incapable of, to have judgmental thoughts. Suppose the Clothesline crew decided to cut people off from serving them because “those” people should be making it on their own by now. We have to help people that are struggling.. We must love people who are making the same crazy decisions month after month, year after year. And we should, because none of us are complete saints. Some of us are just better at hiding our sins.
A foundational principle of serving people is to Look for the Good. When you serve people in the Name of Christ there are only two possible attitudes: you either look down on the people you serve, or you look up to them. Look for the good. Admire the people you serve. This is what Paul does. He is genuinely thankful. He prays for them. You can look down on them or you can be thankful for them. If you look down you will never fully serve them. I knew a man that headed up a Christian helping ministry that admitted to me he didn’t even like the people he was serving. He did it because it made him feel good to help “those” people. It’s no surprise that “those” people could tell…
Paul admires the people whom he serves. He speaks of their good reputation in Col. 1:4. He affirms their destiny of eternal life that is coming in Col. 1:5. Paul commends them for their part in sharing the gospel in Col. 1:6.
You want a great example of a broken messed up person to admire? Yesterday Sally and I spent time with a man who’s life is messed up. But his mind isn’t! His desire to be a follower of Christ isn’t. I asked his permission to tell his story: Eddie H,… Most of you know him… He is in jail. He had the biggest smile…. When he first got to jail end of October, he was beat up. He said he refused to fight back. Now he is in a safer part of the jail, a different floor. I loved Eddie’s boldness when he was able to be with us in this church. His spirit. His prayer. When he came forward and prayed the first time during a song… He says his time may be up in Feb. but it doesn’t matter because he is patient and he is content. He was thankful for the food, (in all the times I’ve gone to see people he is the first person that did not complain about the food in jail…) He is thankful for the prison guards, telling me he used to dislike them but he has seen now as a person of faith that they are just people like him, wanting to make a living. He was most excited because the chaplain gave him a bible. He’s read through the N.T. and now he’s reading through the O.T. I told him to not get bogged down if there are stories he doesn’t understand, but he said that’s not how he’s reading it. He’s looking for single verses that speak to him…some of his favorites… [so fascinating coming from a man in jail…]
- Judges 6:12 ~ “When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The Lord is with you mighty warrior.’”
- 1 Cor. 13:7-8: “[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…”
- Luke 12:4-5: “I tell you my friend, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him, who after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” Remember, Eddie has been beat, threatened, bruises. BTW, Eddie didn’t agree with me, but I thought his stuttering was lessened… I could understand him with more clarity…
- Ezekiel 34:27: “The trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield it’s crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them.”
We must look for the good in the people whom we are privileged to serve! Paul looks for the good in the people of Colossae. In the rest of the letter Paul writes to the Colossians, he wants them to not compromise their faith or water down the supremacy of Christ, but he first Looks for the good! He is thankful. He commends them for their part in sharing the gospel. He clearly admires and respects them. He learns from them and has been strengthened in his own faith by them. He declares they are Holy and have an eternal destination with Jesus Christ. It is a great lesson in that the very first thing Paul does is see the good in them.
May we look for the good in others. It’s the only way to serve others effectively. You’ll either look down on others or you’ll look up to them. Paul has zero arrogance as he seeks to challenge the Colossian people, teaching them a better way, but first he commends them.
Our calling is to love and serve the people of the community. It is a fundamental truth that the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ, however, it is also absolutely true that we are all a work in progress and none of us has pure unadulterated perfect faith. The promise of God is grace and peace even while we seek to grow in our faith. As we seek to challenge others and make a difference to others in the name of Christ, may we begin by looking for the good in them. Find reasons to be thankful. Love others. Learn from them. Admire them. Respect them. AND TELL THEM! They probably do have room to grow in their Christian understanding and their decision making, but who among us doesn’t! What a tremendous difference it makes to begin by looking for the good. You will grow in your own faith because suddenly when you serve you will learn. And you will be part of God’s great kingdom work as you help others find their way to Christ. Look for the good in others! Now that’s a win-win method of serving Christ. Amen!