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Colossians 1.1-14Luke 10.25-37

I would like to help us today to reflect on two of the lectionary readings, Colossians 1:1-14 and Luke 10:25-37, and to explore how they might encourage or perhaps challenge us as we seek to live out a life of faith.

On the surface these are very different readings.

Our reading from Colossians is the very start of the epistle or letter written by Paul and Timothy to the church in Colossae, Asia Minor.

After a warm salutation, the focus turns to prayer, with Paul and Timothy expressing their thankfulness to God for their faith and love for the saints. They paint a beautiful picture of a community who have discovered a hope in God, through the truth of the gospel and have come to know the true reality of grace. It seems that this is, as Paul and Timothy describe, bearing fruit amongst them.

They move on to telling the church what they are praying for them…..

In contrast the passage from Luke is a very different situation with an interaction between a lawyer and Jesus, where the lawyer is attempting to test Jesus in the hope no doubt of tripping him up. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ he asks. When challenged what the law says he replies ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ Being commended by Jesus in his reply he asks a further question – ‘And who is my neighbour?’ leading to the parable that we know as ‘the Good Samaritan,’ which is no doubt familiar to us all.

Two very different readings… I wonder which you feel most drawn to, most familiar with, most encouraged or challenged by.

We most certainly live in a world that needs to know the love of a neighbour and the challenge is issued to us that our neighbours are all those around us, those in need, those who cross our path, those who we have the opportunity to show mercy to. Those who may be different from us, those who we may not ordinarily expect or be expected to interact with due to where they are from, who they are, where they live etc.

The passage of course reminds us that loving God and loving our neighbour, as ourselves cannot be separated. Neither part can stand alone.

The reading from Luke seems very practical, and perhaps easier for us to apply to our every day lives. It may feel more straightforward to imagine situations where we can be merciful to others, help those in need and live out the command to ‘love our neighbour.’’

But what is the difference between doing these things as a Christian and someone who is not a Christian doing those same things? We are all made in the image of God and I believe that within everyone is the God-given ability and inclination to care. Showing love and care in this way is certainly not an exclusively Christian thing, but I do believe that it reflects the heart of God when any human loves or cares in this way.

For those who are Christians however, the command to ‘love your neighbour as yourself,’ is exactly that a command. In fact, it is part of what is often called ‘the greatest commandment.’ It is not a choice, not an added extra, but is something that is fundamentally part of being a Christian.

In Colossians we see Paul and Timothy praying that the believers in Colossae may ‘be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual understanding,’ why? – ‘that they may live lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him,’ as they ‘bear fruit in every good work.’

Rather than simply being some nice encouraging prayerful sentiments, they are talking about the very thing that is needed to help the believers to live out this life of service to God, which at it’s heart is about loving God and our neighbours as ourselves.

What does it mean to be ‘filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual understanding?’

One danger of the life of faith is that we simply continue to fill our minds with knowledge, information and learning. That we become Christians who simply know more and more pieces of information that are about the Bible, or the history of the Christian faith and so on.

When we read about being ‘filled with the knowledge of God’s will,’ the sense of the phrase ‘filled with,’ is actually less to do with how much is there and more to do with the effect of it. In the greek the phrase ‘filled with’ is more about being controlled by something. If that is the case then Paul and Timothy are praying for the believers, that more and more they will be led by, directed by, influenced by God’s will for them. The type of understanding that is being talked about is ‘spiritual understanding.’ It is something that is beyond head knowledge and beyond information, but is about the whole person and relating to the things of faith.

Why? In order that they may live lives worthy of God, fully pleasing to him…. As they bear fruit in every good work.

They go on to pray that they will have the strength for all that is to come, enduring all while joyfully giving thanks to the Father.

What are these good works? Well, many and varied no doubt, but I think loving God and loving our neighbour could be a good summary.

What should we take away? Perhaps the letter to the Colossians is a reminder to pray for each other. To look to God as the one who keep us rooted in Him and gives us all we need to live out this life of loving him and our neighbours as ourselves.

It can be overwhelming at times how much need there is and how many people we would love to serve and care for and this is exactly why we need God’s guidance, his strength and his direction. We haven’t got and aren’t meant to have within ourselves the resources to do what he has called us to do. But filled ever more with the knowledge of his will (revealed to use through the truth of his Word and the guidance of the Spirit), his strength and rooted in the hope that he gives we will be more than equipped to live out this life as kingdom people.

Questions:

  • What/who are you thankful for as you live out your faith?
  • What do you find helps you most as you read the Bible? (study notes, reading with other, sermons, other podcasts…..)
  • Can you recognise some ‘fruit’ in your life or your community? Perhaps take a moment to pause and give thanks.
  • Who is your neighbour and how are your seeking to love them?