Imagine writing a letter to an entire city’s worth of believers, a people you have never met in a place you have never been. How would you start?
Mine would probably go something like:
Hi my name is Natalie…”
I’d probably ramble on about myself some more. I’d surely feel the need to introduce myself and probably then cite some examples of my experience and notate why I have words worth reading.
The apostle Paul wrote his letter (recorded in Colossians 1) to the people of Colossae to encourage them and help them because he had important wisdom to share. They were struggling under the theological confusion of other teachers who were diminishing Christ’s divinity. Paul wanted to teach and serve them even though he was in prison. He wanted to share with them about how they ought to live as Christ’s believers. In preparing today (by re-reading over Paul’s letter), I was struck by the humility in Paul’s beginning.
Have a read through verses 1-6:
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
to God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters[a] in Christ:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father.
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people – the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world – just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.”
He didn’t start his letter with an “about me” section like I likely would have. Paul started with expressing gratitude and humility. Through his word choice, we immediately glimpse his character (instead of peeking at his resume).
In verse 3, Paul assures his audience that “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.”
Notice how he starts with a prayer of thanksgiving and slots himself into the context of we (probably he and his buddy, Timothy).
I see that as good advice when it comes to encouraging our struggling brothers and sisters in Christ: find a buddy and together pray thankfulness for them in their journey.
Have you ever identified a need in the body? Is there someone who could use some wisdom or “steering” back onto a path of righteousness? Have you ever been in the position of being able to witness the needs of someone who is not as far down the path?
Check out what Paul says next: “…we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people.” Paul has heard report that his audience was struggling, but he didn’t pursue them with a waving arm or pointing finger, he spoke of their good reputation, and highlighted their love.
I’ve been there before. I’ve been like the church of Colossae too – faltering from solidly standing in the truths of Christ Jesus (even in my attempts to go out a love everyone).
Paul knows that in order to remain potent in our mission of growing the gospel “throughout the whole world” that we have to stay connected to one another and hold rootedness in Christ. Paul so lovingly fosters connectedness in his careful word choices. He leads off, not with scornful admonishing, but peaceful grace. Hopers, let’s humbly spur one another today with love like Paul extended to Colossae!!
“…with the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven.”