Knit together in love (Col. 2)

read Col. 2. When I was in college, my roommates used to come to my ice hockey matches and sing original cheers like, “Rolina, Rolina, you’re doin’ so fine-ah”– while they were knitting.

Talk about love.

The rink was freezing. They sat on concrete. And the fact that they were cheering while engaged in a domestic activity made the whole thing completely endearing.

Today’s passage exhorts us to be knit together in love. Whenever I read it, I think of those kind women, knitting in unison. They were creating something warm for other people while freezing themselves. Isn’t that an image of sacrificial love that we should aspire to?

Actually I think that’s only the beginning of an understanding of what it means to be knit together in love, not the end. When we think of Christ’s calling as being a rule that means we suffer while others delight, I think we’ve missed the real point: when we give love, we get more than we give. We get to live in a new kingdom.

Let’s look, for instance, at forgiveness. Why? Because it happens to be something I’m struggling with. So what did I finally do? I sat down and read as many verses as I could on forgiveness. And yes, many of them say that if we want God to forgive us, we have to forgive others (see, e.g. Matt. 6:14-15). That’s clear. It’s even fair. We can wrap the justice-oriented sides of our brains around that.

But the Bible says far more than that. It says that God “delights” in showing mercy (Micah 7:18-19). Delight? When we read the word delight, the white-knuckled fingers with which we clutch our resentments start to loosen. Delighting sounds, well, delightful. We delight in delightful things. The idea of delighting in mercy attracts us.

The apostle Paul also says that we should repent of a sin–such as refusing to forgive–so our sins may be wiped out and “times of refreshing” may come from the Lord (Acts 3:19). I didn’t realize how badly I needed times of refreshing until I read that passage.One of the many things I love about the Bible is that it articulates our needs–and tells us how to satisfy them. I also love that it’s a plural promise. We don’t just get one measly “time” of refreshing, like a ten minute massage in an airport. We get “times” of refreshing. Reading about the blessings that follow forgiveness makes something soften in our hearts. We experience the change from the inside that God promises to us if we spend time in His presence.

As if delight, times of refreshment and the promise of being forgiven were not enough: there’s more. Paul says that the Lord asks us to be “kind and compassionate” to each other, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave us (Eph 4.32). Again, the words kindness and compassion attract us. They’re an invitation to allow ourselves to be transferred into the kingdom of light. Suddenly, we remember that the kingdom Christ offers us is a breathtaking place, a place flooded with light and peace, and we think: why did we ever leave?

Armed with these verses on forgiveness I went for a walk around the reservoir, praying for someone who says cruel things about me and has actively tried to hurt me. I began to see them with compassion. I can’t say I’m all the way there. But God gave me an image of what they’re really going through. For me, it was the beginning of what I think Paul is calling us to in Colossians 2: to be knit together in love.

It’s a warm and wonderful place to be. To move toward forgiveness means that we move further into God’s kingdom of love. There, we can be refreshed–over and over. We can delight in offering to others the kindness and compassion Christ gives us. We can give up the illusion that we are without sin, and receive instead the covering of the cross. We can live in the place where Christ nailed our sins to the cross, so He sees His perfection in place of our imperfection. There, we can truly say we’re doing fine.

xo Caroline

on alienation: Colossians 1


read Colossians 1. The alienation of man is a persistent theme of modern culture. Man is presented as alienated from others, nature and himself. There is a flinty realism in our worldview. It resists pat or sentimental solutions. Far from condemning this stark view, the Bible affirms it–but goes a step further. Paul specifically says in the first chapter of Colossians that we are “alienated and enemies.” But our biggest problem, from which our other alienations stem, is our alienation from God. In pointing out the true source of our isolation and estrangement, the Bible points the way to the solution: Jesus offers a costly, thorny way in to reconciliation and deep unity not just with God but with all of creation.

Long before it became trendy to discuss alienation, the Bible offered an even flintier realism. Two thousand years ago, Paul wrote that humans are subject to an “alienation” so extreme that we are under the “power of darkness.” The Bible claims we couldn’t break free of it by ourselves.

Instead, Jesus’ blood accomplished what we couldn’t. Paul here writes that Jesus “reconciled” us to God in the body of his flesh through death. He writes that Jesus “translated us” into the Kingdom of the Son of His love. Paul says that in Jesus “all things are held together.” Jesus reconciled “all things to himself.” He made peace through the blood of the cross.

What does this mean? Paul is explaining how in a very fundamental sense we are knit together in the actual body of Jesus. Or, as Paul puts it “the mystery which has been hidden for ages and generations. But now it has been revealed to his saints…which is Christ in you.” We are one in Christ. United with Christ, who was perfect, means that we, too, are presented to God as “holy and without defect and blameless before him.” We are seen as “perfect in Christ Jesus.” In other words, salvation means that Jesus gives us his union with God. This union extends from God to others. All who believe become “our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

So when we feel alienated, we can use it as a gift, as truth is always a gift. We can admit that without God, we sit in darkness. By looking to the cross, we can be translated to the kingdom of light, where we are united with God and one with others. Knowing this, remembering this, and accepting this will cause us to pray for others, knit together in the heart, soul and mind of our Savior.

posted by Caroline Coleman on November 12, 2016 (photo is of sunset in Locust Valley)