Friday, March 29, 2013

Colossians 4 - Empire. Slavery. Chains. Freedom.

(Part 4 of a series.)
Click here to read Colossians chapter 4

I read Colossians and Philemon as some of the most radical in the New Testament when it comes to the understanding and practice of the gospel in the church. Other than the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, and the Sermon on the Plain in Luke, I am more challenged by the description of true discipleship in these books than anywhere else in scripture.

Considering everything that came before it, the radical freedom, the power and authority of this world destroyed, the life of love and humility in community, the final chapter shines in its examples of this remarkable life really being lived by these early Christians.

First is the appeal to masters that they should provide right and fair treatment to their slaves. Before skipping past this verse at the offense of the mention of slavery, we must take time to consider what it could mean for the Christians in Collosae.

Slaves of the first century in Palestine were not considered to be fully human, in the sense of their moral self or rational ability. This view is not uncommon among societies that advocate slavery. This is necessary to create the paradigm that will justify slavery. If certain people are somehow just morally inferior, incapable of making wise or right choices, incapable of living without the direct supervision of a superior, then slavery is not only justified but even humane.

I visited a friend in jail last week. In the same week, we had visitors in our home who hop trains, sleep in tents, and eat in a day whatever they find. My friend in jail and these train-hopping visitors all had stories of their ill and even violent treatment by police, security, or other figures of authority. I would submit that these same attitudes that would allow for slavery in first century Palestine still exist to justify our behaviour of the marginalized in our own cities today.

One of my new friends was present at the 2010 G20 protests in Toronto. She witnessed and experienced gross disregard for Canadian law by police as they brutally detained, searched, stole from, and arrested innocent nonviolent protesters. Some justification that these people were an exception to normal society and deserved this treatment must have been present for it to occur.

In 2011, Maclean’s reported on an Angus Reid Poll done for the Salvation Army. The poll sought to discover what Canadians think poor people are like and what kind of support they deserve from the government. It found that there was a strong correlation between a high percentage opinion that the poor do not need assistance, and a high percentage opinion that poor people are somehow also morally impoverished. Alberta received one of the worst marks in Canada on this front. If we see ourselves reflected in these opinions about the poor, or judge my friend's moral compass inferior so we may justify the violent and illegal treatment she received from police, we are holding the same prejudice as the slavery-justifying Romans.

So, in the light of this cultural understanding, and in the context of a radical anti-authoritarian document, how do we interpret these uncomfortable passages?

Before the writer ever addresses the masters with his brief command, in the previous chapter, he first speaks to the slaves. Imagine the offense that it could be in a society like the one just described for a slave to be addressed as a capable and worthwhile equal before ever the eyes are raised to the master they serve. By giving slaves moral counsel and direction, the writer acknowledges that they are human, valuable, and perfectly able to make thoughtful and moral decisions. He also acknowledges that the authority that they work in is not their earthly master, but God. He gives no appeal to earthly authority or consequence. Finally, in his appeal to the only authority that they truly serve, he reminds the slaves that vengeance will be paid by that authority on anyone who has done wrong, and that this final judge does not see class, race, or earthly perverted prejudices.

My activist friends and the police who terrorize them are both judged for their attitudes and actions without prejudice or favoritism before the Perfect Judge and Master Avenger.

It is after this sharp reminder that we enter chapter four. The writer finally raises his eyes to the master, the one who will be judged by the Final Authority for his treatment of his fellow equal, moral, image-of-God-bearing humans. Just as he leaves it to the slave to walk righteously in the eyes of God, he leaves it to the master to judge what must consequently be "right" and "fair". In a society that gives carte blanche authority to a slave-owner to do whatever he wants with his human possessions, this is a radical confrontation. Finally, just as he reminds the slaves that we each answer to only one Final Authority, he appeals to the master to soberly consider that he and the slave have the same Master. Before that Master both will bow, and by that Master they will both be judged without preference.

Before a lengthy closing, the writer's final instructions direct the outward practice and mission of the covenant community. No matter the circumstance, Christ's supremacy gives opportunity to share the goodness of this message of freedom and grace. Even in chains, the writer prays for God to open the door for him to invite others into the freedom and life that he is experiencing. Outsiders here are not seen as people to fear. Rather, there is a hope and expectation in the tone of the writing that outsiders will see the community's new life displayed, and will want in on it.

We see the radical and free nature of this community joyfully displayed in the book's final greetings. The writer has great joy in speaking of friends and colleagues who are in jail, ministering and traveling, serving, and praying. He speaks of deep hospitality, encouragement, comfort, and praise. In jail and in chains, Paul is not alone. This community runs as thick as the blood of Jesus.

Do not miss the special mention of Nympha in the fifteenth verse. In this new community, slaves are valuable, human, and equal. In this new community, women are pastors and leaders. We are no longer held captive by any deceptive human philosophies and traditions. In Christ, we have been made completely free from idle notions that would keep us bound and we are all connected to him as one body. He is the Head.

Finally, the writer, Paul, quickly ends his letter with a humble reminder that he is writing in chains. Though the appeal to the authority of Christ rings through from the very first verse until the end, we are reminded that the words are spoken to us by a very human voice, in fact a criminal. We are reminded that it is not earthly gain or position or acclaim that holds the truth of this letter. We follow one who was also a criminal in chains in the eyes of the empire. The truth of the freedom in this letter is found not in the results of freedom in this life or prosperity in the natural. The truth is found in Christ alone, who rose again to give us new life. He is the truth, and he makes us free.

Next - Part 5 (of 7) - Community. Humility. Grace. - Colossians 4

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Colossians 3 - Patience and Forgiveness in a Community of Freedom

Counter Cultural Christianity in a World of Empire 
(part 3 of 7)

In the third chapter of Colossians, Paul applies Jesus' supremacy and our freedom to our unity and community among his followers.

This chapter makes direct reference to different genders, ethnicities, and social classes. Clearly, the church is diverse, and this is exactly as Jesus intended it to be. In him we are made one, and those differences that may have once created inequality have been removed.

Since we have been set free, and all are one in Jesus, our behaviour should change to reflect this. We do not lord it over or control one another. We speak to one another with respect and dignity, not lies or slander. No matter what our previous life or class may have been, we now act in this new Jesus-life with gentleness, patience, and love for all. When we are slighted or offended, we forgive.

Colossians 3:1-2 (ESVUK)
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

In his resurrection, Jesus was glorified to the highest place in all of heaven and earth. He is King and Lord. Since you were made eternally alive and free by him, don't continue to live as though you value the worthless temporary anxieties and pleasures of earth. Live your new eternal life in and for Jesus.

Most of the letters of the New Testament begin with absolute and complete claims of theology, and end with practical application of that theology in a world of ever-changing realities. Colossians is no different. The first two chapters of Colossians outline first the supreme authority of Jesus over all other authorities on earth, legal, cultural, natural, or otherwise, and then go on to describe the radical justice, peace, and freedom for all those under this authority. We have been created and redeemed for freedom, and manifest that freedom even in resistance to the rebellious agents of the empires of the world that would seek to keep us bound. We approach one another, women and men, slave and free, all ethnicities, as equals, no matter how the empire may seek to keep us separated.

If Colossians were to stop there, it would be a text of ideals with no application. The reality of everyday life lived in the empire is far more difficult than a simple change of mind. The Kingdom of God is not something meant to be accepted simply as a doctrinal statement, but realized in our lives lived out in the empire every day.

Paul, the writer of this letter, had no use for slavery. Outside of his use of the word in theological terms (like when he describes adherence to religious codes for one's salvation "slavery"), he also uses the word negatively to describe any time human beings dare to apply their codes of legality or righteousness on others.

Galatians 4:7 (ESVUK)
So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Galatians 5:1 (ESVUK)
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

1 Corinthians 7:23 (ESVUK)
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

But how does one live this reality in a world built on slavery? It may well have been right and good for the early Jesus Followers to demand that all slaves be released. However, in their world, still controlled by the Empire of Rome, this may not do anything to improve the lives of those freed individuals. Slaves and women were denied not only citizenship, but even the status of personhood. They were property. To go only one step toward freedom would leave these former slaves homeless and exiled, forced to flee the law that would continue to keep them bound.

The reality would have to be far more radical. As long as the empire was in power, none were truly free in the practical sense. A radical overthrow of the whole system was necessary, not individual reforms.

And this is still true today.

Among my anarchist friends who see the government as it is as entirely corrupt, and seek an ideal new order to entirely replace it, many still vote. I know many a radical environmentalist that seeks to end all use of fossil fuels, everywhere on earth, yet they still choose to drive a car. These need not be seen as inconsistencies, and accusations of hypocrisy in such cases are more often used to deflect the uncomfortable suggestions of the idealist rather than confront a truth that may convict us to change. However, they may be seen as examples of the reality of ideals as they begin to be made manifest in a world not yet fully redeemed to justice.

Like the Colossians, we also live in a world built on slavery. For most of us with the privilege of literacy to be able to read these words, our clothes, homes, cars, jobs, and lifestyles are made possible because of a worldwide system that keeps hundreds in poverty for the sake of our comfort.

How do we, who claim to be followers of Jesus, truly manifest his complete justice in a world constructed on subjugation of the poor?

This is a difficult question, as are many like it that seek to practically live an ideal in a less-than-ideal world. They do not have easy answers. But such questions are those that separate a truly counter cultural community from empty rhetoric.

The community of Christ is a community of unity and peace.

In all of our relationships, we are to reflect Jesus, loving, forgiving, and serving in the same way as he did for us. In family or work, we seek to reflect the character of Jesus as fully as we are able in every relationship we have, inside and outside of our community of faith.

We are always reminding one another of Jesus in our deeds and our words. We humbly and boldly speak the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ to one another often. Our community looks like Jesus, sounds like Jesus, and talks about Jesus. We do everything for Jesus and in his name.

Colossians 3:12-15 (ESVUK)
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on 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 one body. And be thankful.

You are part of God's family, his people. Since we belong to God, we act as he does here on earth. We reflect his nature of forgiveness and love. In all of your relationships, consider God's relationship with us. He forgave you. Forgive others. He is patient with you. Be patient with others. Love is the key to all of this. If you act according to the love of God toward one another, everything else will follow.

Colossians 3:16-17 (ESVUK)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Let the truth of Jesus be constantly in your heart, thoughts, speech, and actions. Massage the message of truth, love and freedom deep into every fibre of your community. Talk about it together. Sing about it together. Sing to one another about it, together. Encourage one another. Correct each other. Teach each other. And in everything you do, say, or sing, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, for his sake and glory, humbly giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Everything in community is done in imitation of Jesus, in the power of Jesus, for the glory of Jesus. To authentically love and forgive people as this verse suggests, I need to know Jesus well. If I don't love him, or receive his love for me, I can't love others. If I take credit for my good deeds, I am not relying in him, his power in my life will dry up, and my ability to love and forgive will fail.

The debt of the Kingdom is only love owed one to another. The law of the Kingdom is to minister to each other the same forgiveness, grace, and patience that have been ministered to us by the King. Only when each of us seeks to love others as we have been loved can the Kingdom be truly manifest. Only when we receive the love and freedom offered are we able to share it with others.

Still, the reality of a patriarchal and unjust hierarchical system continues to exist in the world around us. In my next entry, I will wrestle with the difficult passages in Colossians’ third and fourth chapters about slavery and patriarchy.

Next - Part 4 (of 7) - Empire. Slavery. Chains. Freedom. - Colossians 4

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Colossians 2 – “Do not taste, touch or handle” - How Free May We Be?

Counter Cultural Christianity in a World of Empire 
(part 2 of 7)

The freedom in this passage is astounding. Incredible. In bondage to rules and regulations and old oppressive authorities, we have died. Those old rules will do nothing to lead us toward the freedom, justice, and grace that Christ offers us. He is the king who sets us free.

Colossians 2:8-10 (ESVUK)
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

This letter makes claims of absolute truth. In it, Jesus is proclaimed to be the ultimate sovereign authority.

To a people struggling under the weight of hierarchical and oppressive empire (both us and the letter's original recipients) such claims may seem outrageous, even offensive at the first reading. However, the authority of Jesus is a different and necessary one if we truly desire emancipation from the empire's control.

Scripture claims the authority of The Kingdom of God is a divine authority, the highest, and Jesus is king. The Roman Empire in the first century, and the empires created by economic globalization today both hold their authority through power and control. That power is administered through economic control and military strength, and is maintained through sophisticated webs of propaganda. Though the just Kingdom of God may very well be growing from within the empire, the strength of the empire still remains. Colossians compares these competing realities, and challenges us to live as citizens of the Kingdom now, in resistance to empire even as its control remains. The good news is in the submission to the authority of the Kingdom, not individual autonomy.

If all individuals are equally free and sovereign individuals unto themselves, there is no reason why in their freedom they should not each choose to use whatever power they command to influence or control others. A dedicated system of checks and balances to govern the "free" community life within a republic of sovereign individuals may itself devolve into a tyranny. With no authority higher than that of the autonomous individual, it will always be in the higher interest of every individual to seek their own benefit, even at the expense of others. This old philosophical idea is called the Prisoner's Dilemma, and its consequences have been observed countless times throughout human history.

On the other hand, if individuals each choose to invoke their own preferred higher divine authority, upon what foundation shall they make that choice? If we do not claim any higher authority that speaks in a voice other than our own, to a standard higher than our own, we have done no more than created a construct of our imagination, an idol. No empire ever need fear idols. In fact, idols have always been under the control of empire. In Rome this was seen explicitly in emperor cults and regional nationalistic gods of personality. Our empires today still use traditions and idolatry to control the masses. Of course we see this in the use of religion to strongarm a population to support parties and policies. But even outside of religion explicitly, the principalities of this world will always use the people's own constructs against them.

The authority of the Kingdom is different. To submit oneself to the King of kings is to acknowledge and walk within an authority higher than that of any power or dominion on earth. Kingdom Citizens recognize an authority that has called them completely, utterly, irreversibly free. Followers of Jesus surrender to a judge that holds every person, every empire, every nation, accountable for their selfishness, indulgence, greed, and injustice. The slave and the slave-owner, father and child, teacher and student, king and subject, will both stand before the same judge and each will be called to account. In fact, scripture tells us that those who claim power on earth will be judged by an even higher standard.

We recognize a freedom purchased for us that cannot be revoked. We share in a community of equals that approaches one another with the humility of those given an alien freedom, with the boldness of those enabled to be utterly and completely and wholly free.

God's wisdom and God's message is entirely about Jesus. Worldly wisdom is no more than vain babbling by comparison. Following Jesus' way is freedom. The world's way is nothing more than legends and superstitions that make you bound to a system of rules and false authorities.
Jesus, the Messiah, anointed of God, is fully God and fully human. In Jesus, you are now free to be fully who God intended you to be through faith. Jesus, who has completed you, is the head over every power and authority.

Colossians 2:13-15 (ESVUK)
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

When we were completely unable in your own efforts to do anything as God intended, he gave us Jesus, and the power to be like him. He forgave us all our sins, letting us off the hook for our previous inability to do rightly. He destroyed all of the laws that stood in accusation of us, controlling us and exposing our imperfection. When he died, it died with him. With it, he took the power away from every false authority to confuse, accuse, or oppress. In his willing death at the hand of a violent empire, he exposed all violence and oppression for what it was. What looked like their victory was actually his. He turned the tables, and took away all the power and authority they ever had, utterly defeating them. 

Colossians 2:20-23
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

The world loves to arbitrarily impose standards and control. It seems like there is a new fad every week about what is or isn't acceptable to say or do. It never lasts, and it never matters. It has nothing to do with the freedom and grace of Jesus, so let it go. Be free.
The world's rules always look like the right thing to do from a certain perspective. It certainly does take discipline to follow all of the "correct" traditions of the culture around us, and there are always compelling reasons to back them up. There is also a pressure to fit in and look cool as well. But no matter what the reasons for restricting yourself, outside of Jesus it is just a lot of emptiness, unable to actually do anything or improve anyone, including the person practicing them. Don't be silly. Be free.

On the other hand, I am free, yes, but so are my brothers and sisters. They are as free to make mistakes and try new things and serve radically as I am. Sometimes, their freedom may impose upon me to join them in their radical service.

I live in community. We share a home, a house of hospitality. Any one of those people in our community could bring by anyone at any time. What if someone brings by someone messy, or smelly, or annoying, or even dangerous? What if someone in my community, out of a desire to help and serve the less fortunate, brings someone difficult by this house, where my children eat and play? What if they come by when I'm not at my best, when I don't feel like serving a stranger?

But I want that same freedom. I want that same freedom, in my own home, to make thoughtful, discerning choices to serve and to love and to help however I am able, in whatever way God has called me to do it. Sometimes, I'll make mistakes. Sometimes, I might bring the wrong person by at the wrong time, and someone might get offended.

Kate and I once started and developed an outreach, drop-in style ministry for troubled youth at a church in Southern Alberta. We had no idea what we were doing. In those first few weeks, we dealt with damaged buildings, police harassment, drugs and alcohol used by minors on our property under our care, violence, the list goes on. It was a steep learning curve.

Many churches would have shut us down after our first attempt. This one didn't. They encouraged us to be free, to explore the difficult regions of loving and serving the difficult to love and serve. And we did learn. And we repaired walls and cleaned up and dealt with consequences. And in the three years that we had the privilege of being a part of that ministry, the actual damages and consequences turned out to be few compared to the hundreds (possibly thousands) of young people who were personally affected by the selfless and loving efforts of the ministry team that served them. Many of the high school aged people involved said that this ministry defined their high school years, and was the light for them in dark times.

The freedom bought for us in Jesus is the freedom to make the kinds of crazy mistakes that we made in that ministry, especially at the beginning. The freedom bought for us in Jesus is the freedom to live our lives in community, real community, with brothers and sisters who are all trying out risky and selfless endeavors of love around and with us.

It's very messy. It isn't just costly because of our own freedom, it's costly because of the freedom of those around us.

It's tempting to put a lid on it. It's tempting to stand up and fight for our own personal rights, thereby essentially pushing our own agenda onto others, limiting them in the ways that we'd prefer not to be limited.

I am reminded, of course, of healthy boundaries. To minister effectively, we each do need to be full and healthy. We need to be ministered too as well as minister. What if this doesn't mean fighting for the edges of our own boundaries? What if we didn't have to? What if the freedom we've received in Jesus is manifest by each of us in fighting for one another instead of ourselves? If I've got a family at my back, suddenly I feel a lot more free to get the back of someone less fortunate than myself.

I am free, yes. But I also must not use my freedom as an opportunity to control others. We're all figuring this out together, this look-like-Jesus stuff. I need the freedom to get it wrong sometimes, or to try it out and learn to do it better. I also want to offer that freedom to others. I want to enable this freedom by incurring the cost of others mistakes with grace. I want to enable this freedom by shouldering the burdens of other's freedom with grace. This is community. We're in this together.

Freedom. Freedom to love. Freedom to serve. Freedom to put others first.

Freedom to be served, and loved, and be put first by others.

Freedom to serve a king who washes my feet.

Such freedom exists in a community that consistently manifests forgiveness, patience, and gentleness together. These are the subjects of Colossians chapter 3, as it explores the practical manifestation of freedom shared with others.

Next - Part 3 (of 7) - Patience and Forgiveness in a Community of Freedom - Colossians 3

v10 – Jesus is King over every power and authority. He is the ultimate authority, the final authority, the highest authority.
v11 – New covenant circumcision is the cutting off of the old nature by faith.
v13 – Though dead in sin, we are made alive by Jesus, and forgiven.
v14 – CANCELED the written code. Interesting.
v15 – The cross displayed worldly power and authority for the foolish mockery that it is. Jesus reigns.
v16 – Paul takes time to make corrections in every one of his letters. He is very, very certain of the grace of God, and will not tolerate one fraction of a hair of compromise into legalism.
Legalism is offensive to Christ.
The POWERS and AUTHORITIES of this world (knowledge of good and evil. our feeble attempts to make ourselves into gods. self-autonomy. etc.) have been triumphed over by Christ. DO NOT FLIRT WITH THEM.
vv20-23 – Worth memorizing.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Colossians 1 - Counter Cultural Christianity in a World of Empire – (part 1)

Read Colossians 1

The books of Colossians and Philemon describe the nature of the Kingdom of God manifest in a contrary culture. While the new community of Christ-Followers in Collosae sought to live the reality of a Kingdom in which they were all made equals, the empire around them continued to be patriarchal, hierarchical, and built on slavery. While women and slaves were welcomed and enabled to participate as full members of the new Jesus community, outside of these Kingdom Outposts they continued to live without the status of citizenship or even personhood.

The power of the surrounding culture would have been palpable in these tiny new-formed families. Onesimus, a former slave himself, carried these letters from their beloved brother Paul, who wrote them while in chains, a political prisoner to the same empire that had once kept Onesimus bound.

The tension between the radical truths of the gospel and the practical realities of a world still oppressed by the unjust Spirit of Empire is one still felt in the Jesus community today. These books explore with real, measurable examples how a truly counter-cultural Jesus community may practice their resistance in the world of Rome, and our world today.

Colossians 1:13-14 (ESVUK)
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

God has rescued us from our previous state of darkness and death, where the only authorities are oppressive to us, and rebels against his true and just kingdom, and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, Jesus. When Jesus is our king, we are redeemed, we are bought from our previous slave owners from the old kingdom and set free. All debts and sentences from our previous state are canceled.

Colossians 1:15-20 (ESVUK)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Jesus is exactly like God on earth, reflecting him perfectly in every way. He fulfills God's perfect plan for his creation through his life. Jesus is able to do this because he was the one to create everything in the first place. Jesus created everything natural and supernatural, everything we can see, and everything we can't. All authority and power in the world came from him first. All things were created by him and for him. He existed before any of these other things did. They could not continue to exist except that he allows it.

Jesus' church works like a body, in unity and humble cooperation. He is the head of the body. By his resurrection, all of the rest of the body can now also experience new and eternal life through him. Since he came first, creating everything, and also rose again, redeeming his church, he is the highest authority over all things and in every way.

Jesus is fully and entirely God. Everything is his. Though creation was bent by rebellion, he entered it, lived perfectly within it, and died by it. In his willing death at the hands of rebels, he reconciled all rebels and violent enemies back to himself. All oppressors and oppressed have been set free, the price paid by his blood, and peace offered in his new life.

We have been called and redeemed by the highest authority in heaven and earth, the only authority with any power to do so. We have been called and redeemed to serve the only authority in heaven and earth that represents perfect justice, perfect peace, and perfect love.

All of my life of faith is in Jesus, of Jesus, and for Jesus. Anything that is not, is not of my life of faith.

This is far from a feel good sentiment. On the contrary, it is much harder to remain humble enough to recognize Jesus in all I do. The other way is empty legalism and self-righteousness. In recognizing the headship of Jesus, I am made free through his grace. In my own self-righteousness, I will always be bound; I will become a judge of others, and I will be ever aware of how I have not measured up. In recognizing Jesus in all I do, I am reconciled.

Jesus is King. Jesus is God. He made all things. All things exist through him, by him, and for him. It is only in him and for his glory that we live our lives of truth and love. All else is unjust. All else is illegitimate. All else has been overcome.

All glory to Jesus, the one true King.

v6 – Paul saw so much fruit in his own lifetime.
v13 – This book is all about Jesus.
v16 – He is high King before all and over all.
vv19-20 – Worth memorizing. Beautiful.
v23 – True believers will continue in their faith until the end.
v28 – It is Christ in us that we preach. He is the hope of glory.
v29 – It is Christ in us that empowers us to do his work.