In some crazy turn of events, we have to ask ourselves, “Have we replaced an oppressive empire with our own Christian empire?” The early followers of Jesus lived in and wrote from a place of oppression and marginalization. Their words
What concerns us today when we read Colossians is the totality of Paul’s speech and the dominating worldview which he seems to put forth as a replacement to the worldview of the Roman Empire. It’s ok if it makes you uncomfortable to hear Paul slam the door on all perspectives except his own.
Today we read Colossians from the world of Christendom. We look out at evangelistic efforts that appear manipulative, forceful and slanted toward a singular worldview (thus slamming the door on all others). In this process, we lack grace, compassion and understanding as we seek to mimic the forcefulness of Paul.
Paul, however, wrote from the other side, the side of the oppressed. Consider the difference between these two phrases in our current social context:
“Black Lives Matter”
“White Lives Matter.”
How are these two phrases understood in our context?
Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat identify two biblical trajectories that help us to read Colossians in the appropriate context.[1. Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire (2004)]
First, suffering is one of the (if not THE) most influential themes that runs through our scripture. Beginning with, “God heard the cry of the people and had compassion on them,” in Exodus to the suffering of the cross to the early church, suffering is a place of holiness for God’s people — that is to say that “empire” doesn’t look so good on us.
Second, Israel’s role as a chosen people was not to be “bringers” of truth but to bless the nations and participate in God’s plan in the “reconciliation of all things.” An empire, or regime of truth, misses the mark in God’s plan, and Colossians lacks meaning today without understanding suffering and reconciliation.
How do we tell our story (or God’s story) without the evangelistic perspective and worldview we’ve accepted as the only option?
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