Monday, September 29, 2014

Unified for Grace

Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love , which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.  Colossians 3:13-15. NRSV

One of the most difficult offices Christians are called to perform is to forgive, especially when someone has done something very wrong and hurtful, and the offender does not recognize or admit to the offense.  In the scripture verses above, Paul instructs the believers that forgiveness is imperative if we are to accept God's grace.  Forgiveness is an ongoing process of grace, and Paul tells us in the next two verses, how we can keep this process of forgiveness going.

Paul  encourages us to bind ourselves together in love. Essentially, Paul is saying that we need to identify ourselves as a group, and we need love to keep us together and peace to govern us. 
Paul then inserts a little phrase, "to which you were indeed called in the one body."  The NRSV translation notes indicate that the word "called" has the same meaning as chosen.  God chose us, individually and as a group, to demonstrate His grace and forgiveness through the love and peace that we show to each other.  Our unity, being bound together in love, and being governed by peace, is what gives us the strength to and motivation to continue to forgive others.  It is through this forgiveness that God is able to show grace to the world.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The mystery of grace

“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  Colossians 1:27 (NRSV)
In the Apostle Paul’s time, the difference between Jew and Gentile was a factor in spreading the gospel of Christ to the world because the early Christians were also Jews.  In the verse above, Paul starts out by saying "to them" which means the saints.  The saints are the early believers who follow hard after Christ--in other words, the church. Since most of the early believers are Jews, it is difficult for them to get past the differences between Jews and Gentiles that have been so deeply ingrained into them.  God chose for everyone to know the riches of His mystery, and a constant theme of Paul's writing is that Christianity is for Jews and for Gentiles—in Paul’s world, that meant EVERYONE.                                                      
The word mystery is interesting as well.  In Paul's day, there were believers in Christ who thought that in order to fully know Christ, they needed to have a special richly spiritual, mysterious knowledge that not everyone was able to possess or understand.  Paul wanted to make it clear to the Colossian church that the mystery does not have anything to do with a special knowledge, but it has everything to do with God's grace.  The mystery is for EVERYONE--Jews, Gentiles, Americans, Cambodians, Native Americans, Asian, Black, White--all nations and all ethnic groups.  And Paul states this mystery so simply and yet so powerfully.  The glorious mystery is Christ in you!  Somehow, God, who is greater and more powerful than we can ever hope to imagine, chose to live in our hearts, in spite of our ignorance and inability to comprehend His greatness.  Think of it.  Christ in us!  What amazing grace our God has shown to us.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Steadfastness of God's Grace

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe...  Deuteronomy 10:17

...provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.  Colossians 1: 23

In the first chapter of Colossians, Paul presents the argument that Christ is first.  And not only is Christ first, as in the winner of a race, but he is preeminent (first over everything)-- He was the creator of the race and defined the outcome before time even began.  In order to fully grasp how we are gripped by God's grace, we need to continually keep God's greatness before us.  The Deuteronomy scripture quoted above helps us to remember this awesome, time defying essence of God.  God provided us with intellect to understand His greatness and authority, but we will never be able to fully comprehend it.  We will never be able to completely define the immensity of God. 
If we constantly keep in mind the greatness of God, our problems in this world become a less imposing.  This is what Paul is asking us to do in Colossians 1:23.  We are to continue established and steadfast in faith, and not because we are steadfast, faithful people, but because God is an immense, steadfast, and faithful God.  It is only through His grace, pouring into our hearts, that we can remain steadfast.  We waiver, but God stays.  God's steadfastness transcends time and space, as Paul recognizes this when he says that the God's grace has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.  Paul is saying that from God's perspective, what will happen has already happened. 
When we continually keep our eyes on God's immense grace and faithfulness, our focus will shift away from our problems, and we will be better equipped to rely on God's power to overcome our earthly cares.  What a great and powerful God He is and what little He requires of us.