11-18-2021 Colossians 4:1-9
St Paul here begins his closure on his letter to the Church of Colossae. He begins by reminding those who have bondservants to treat them with what is just and fair, never forgetting that no matter what fortunes or conveniences they may have in this life, they still do in fact have a master to whom they must answer. And this is such a vital message for us today as well. Though bondservants are no longer in a literal sense existent, it serves to consider any who are worse off than you, or perhaps you may manage someone in your job. Though they are far from slaves in a literal sense, if they are receiving money from you to do what you tell them to, this would still apply. But, regardless of economic ranking or financial status, we are all one in the family of God. And thus, all deserve to be treated with what is “just and fair,” to be respected as one created in the image and likeness of God. And that fact transcends any worldly label, any financial level, any race. There is nothing that we could label someone as that would make them any less worthy of respect.
And he continues to teach them to be earnest in prayer, vigilant in thanksgiving. See, when we read the Scriptures, it’s so easy for us to read it as a personal letter to us individually. And more often than not, that’s okay. However, in this instance, we must remember that this epistle was addressed to the entire Church at Colossae. This is so important to remember, because here he instructs them, as a whole, to be earnest in prayer. He expects the Church to be in corporate prayer often, gathering together more than once a week, in this corporate prayer and thanksgiving. In true worship. It’s the expectation that, yes, we will receive instruction during the homily, but that homily should never be the focal point of coming together. The Church we see depicted in the Scriptures is a Church that gathers together regularly in prayer. And notice, this prayer isn’t focused on our needs or wants or desires, but rather is to be vigilant in thanksgiving and worship. We pray for the well-being of the our brethern, for those who are travelling, for the government, for the military, for the poor and suffering, for the Church as a whole. We get outside of our little box and pray for the whole world, that it would be saved by the grace of Christ.
But most of the service is focused solely on the acknowledgment of Christ as our Lord and God, and our thankfulness to Him for His grace. And we see this very thing in St Paul’s letter even. He seeks the prayers of the Church for the apostles. Yet, notice, even in asking for this prayer, it is not that they would gain financial benefits, or prestige, or anything of that nature. No, rather he asks them to pray that God would open the door for the Gospel to reach more people, regardless of the cost. And he writes this while reminding them that it is for this very reason that he is imprisoned. It is for speaking of the mystery of Christ that he is in chains.
And he concludes by offering them this teaching. “Walk in wisdom towards those who are outside…let your speech always be with grace.” This is vital. Not only the apostles are to speak the truth, but every member of the Church should have a voice to reach those outside the Church. Jesus died for the sins of all, therefore His message should be available to all. But, he also warns that when we so do, our speech must be filled with grace. We must spread the word, but never through arguments or debates. Let us never get caught up in those things. Rather, we must speak with love, neither teaching or accepting heresy, but also never fighting to make someone believe. Our job as Christians is to plant the seed, or perhaps water the seed that someone else has planted. We do not make the seed grow, that is the Holy Spirit within them. And this is important. I’ve seen so many people turn away from the Church because of the members of the Church, I can not stress this enough. No one will ever answer those who are truly seeking the true faith without this grace of God.
So, what do we do? We attend the liturgies, we pray unceasingly, and we never forget to give thank to God for all things. Even when things seem to be going miserably, we give thanks to God. And yes, we do spread the word of Jesus, and yet we do so with grace. We live lives that reflect His grace, His mercy, His love. We reject things that He would reject and love things that He would love. Our world has created internet warriors who constantly seek to “one up” each other, but we must go out of our way to never let that happen. When we offer the Gospel to people, we must be living lives that reflect the promises and commands of Jesus. No one will listen if they see someone drunkenly proclaiming that Jesus is Lord. No one will listen if they hear someone arguing incessantly about how Jesus is the Lord. We offer the Gospel message with grace and with love, and some will walk away, and we pray for them. Some will have questions, and we answer them. Some will even want to come to the Church, and we welcome them. We must never let the fear of rejection from the world silence us, but we must likewise be mindful to never let our words, our passions, our attitudes, be the reason that they don’t come either. And we have to be careful. There are many heresies and false teachings, just as there were in Colossae, and we must be careful not to embrace them. There are teachings which have been accepted which have declared multiple mortal sins to be not sins, and we must avoid them as well. Unfortunately, most of the opinions of those outside the Church are based on those heresies.
We must remember that the goal of the Church isn’t to please you, it’s to change you. The Church isn’t a playground, it’s a hospital, where we go to be cleansed of our sinful ways. And we have to remember that to someone who is outside of the Church, that can be a terrifying thought. But, for those who would come, we must be a bridge to the Truth, not a wall of self-righteousness standing in the way. Let us not fill either our heads or theirs with lies about “live your best life now,” as this is a guaranteed let down, but rather let us speak in grace the undisputed truth about everything that it means to be a true Christian. We must spread the word, but we must be mindful of the pride that often times ensues. We plant the seeds, but it is Christ who makes them grow.
Christ is in our midst.