Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
– Colossians 3:1-4, NLT
September 10, 2017
At the outset of his letter to the church in Colossae, the apostle Paul made it clear that “…we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven” (Colossians 1:4-5). Here, Paul asserts that their faith in Christ Jesus and their love for all of God’s people emerges from their ‘confident hope’ in heaven.
As we have looked at this book, we now know that our confident hope in heaven is not based upon our works or efforts but solely upon God’s work through His Son, Jesus Christ. Having responded to this Good News in faith we produce fruit (vs. 10) that includes an ever-increasing faith in Christ Jesus and a love for others.
So, also, Paul begins chapter 3 by encouraging followers of Christ to “set our sights on the realities of heaven” because our lives are no longer anchored in this world; but, rather, in heaven. Consequently, the faith and love is going to work itself out in our lives as we live in hope.
When we are uncomfortable with such a liberating grace based on a confident assurance of eternal life, we must admit to have a tendency to question the fruit that is produced. Whether the fruitful action was done correctly or falls within one’s theological understanding goes beyond the good that is done in order to ferret out the error. This begins a deadly progression of questioning our actions and doubting our security in Christ. The end result is diminished faith in Christ’s ability to save and love with judgmentalism and sectarianism.
I believe it is this tendency that Paul addresses in chapter 2 that leads him to give moral instruction in the broadest strokes in chapter 3:5-10. Certainly Paul could have itemized these sins in greater detail. Conversely, he could have been much more exacting in meaning than simply telling wives to submit to their husbands, husbands to love their wives, and children to obey their parents. How many volumes of books have been written about these topics in our lifetime alone?
The key is that for a people who are anchored in their hope of heaven, devoted to growing in their faith in Christ and, out of gratitude, exceeding the bare minimums to love others there is not as much need for detailed instruction. These concerns are but asterisks…footnotes…to clarify what true followers of Christ already know so they be encouraged to keep on track while, also, watching for those who lose their way.
For those whose confident hope is in heaven, the more fruitful encouragements are to grow in faith and love. This is Paul’s approach in the bulk of the chapter and it is something to keep in mind as we encourage one another. Rather than judging other’s motives or critiquing the correctness of others’ efforts perhaps our time would best be spent rolling up our sleeves and joining in their efforts and striving to do better, together, out of gratitude for what Christ has done for us.