Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. Colossians 4: 5-6 (The Message)
A Word of Hope
The early followers of Jesus must have been an amazing group of people if today’s assigned reading (Colossians 4:2 – 17) is any indication. Most scholars think the letter to the followers in the small city of Colossae was written by Paul (though there is some disagreement on that) as early as only 20 years after Jesus’s execution. In that short amount of time those followers who knew Jesus first or second hand had established social networks and communities throughout much of the region.
Paul calls some of them “the old crowd who have stuck with me.” Paul knows them intimately. Names he has for them include “trusted minister,” “companion,” “one of you,” “dear brother,” “a big help,” “a trooper,” and “tireless.” I wish these descriptions could always be applied to me by those who know me best but I am afraid they can not.
And then there is Nympha, a woman of apparently independent means (no husband is mentioned) who was such an important strong leader that the church met in her house! How many of us open up our homes to the community?
They sound like an amazing group of people. A community that was formed not by social class, tribe, political affiliation, education, or even geography. They were bound together because of the change they experienced when they decided to adopt Jesus’s teachings. They were a community because the values of Jesus took root in their lives and transformed them.
We live in a deeply rooted culture that divides us by race and ethnicity, wealth, education, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and where we were born. Jesus broke through all those barriers. And his early followers struggled to break through them as well to form a new community. It wasn’t easy – remember that Peter had to receive an unmistakable vision telling him to take the message to everyone (Acts 10) – but they did it.
They started by building a strong, supportive, open community. Next time someone tries to drive a wedge between you and someone else, think about those early followers who achieved amazing things by working together and supporting each other.
God of my being. As a member of the community that includes all humanity, may I remember today, to be supportive, open, and loving to every community member.