The Small Picture: Colossians 3 – 4

You Weren’t Alive until Christ. Instructions and Instructions.

“Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Colossians 4:4-6 (NIV)

In December 1998, just a month before my 11th birthday, I learned what the word “impeach” meant. Congress met in order to discuss allegations that President Bill Clinton had committed perjury when denying a sexual relationship with a White House employee in front of a Grand Jury. I was 11, so I didn’t really know what most of those words meant, but I knew the word “impeach.” And I knew why Bill Clinton was certain to have that word thrown down on him.

Because he was the antichrist.

He wasn’t, or at least, no evidence now points to the fact that he was (or is). But growing up, I heard several adults make that assertion. They believed that we were living the end times, and God had sent this charismatic asshole down to Earth to lead us into ultimate destruction. I don’t find it all too surprising in retrospect; most democrats were believed to have come straight from the devil.

Anyway, this idea that Bill Clinton might be the antichrist led a great many Christians to push for his removal from office. They wanted him gone, stripped of all power, so that he might not enact his antichrist-ly ways. In fact, I had heard this rhetoric before – that we can’t allow the United Nations too much power, for the Bible warned of a one-world government – that any electronic banking was evil, akin to the “mark of the beast” – that sweeping currencies like the Euro must be stopped, since a sign of the end times was one world currency.

But that rattled my logical brain. I remember asking one of these conspiracy-led adults – “If God is going to end the world at some point – with an antichrist, one government, one currency – then why do Christians actively fight it?” Their answer was something like, “Oh yeah…” and then the subject was changed.

There seems to be a dissonance in the Christian community about what we are intended to fight. I have mentioned often the conservative push to change laws that reflect “what God wants,” and after nearly 11 months of reading the Bible, I cannot find any evidence that we are called to such big picture action.

Because everything – and I mean everything – in the Bible is about person-to-person relations.

In the latter half of Colossians, Paul gives Christians plenty of advice on how to live amongst one another.

We ought to rid ourselves of anger, malice, etc.
Be kind to your fathers, wives, etc.
Be watchful and thankful with one another, etc.

I don’t know. This is all small picture stuff. This is about how we are meant to live day-to-day within the personal relationships we have. No talks of overthrowing a one-world government or stopping the antichrist from rising to power or even getting gays to stop marrying.

I want to live small picture.

The Church: Colossians 1 – 2

Christ Is the Best. Don’t You Know How Hard Paul Is Working for You? Christ Is Still the Best. Eat All the Pork You Want.

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”
Colossians 1:24 (NIV)

Let’s think a little bit about the church – its intended role and its actualization.

And let’s also think about the “church” in a broad sense. I am not commenting on my church or your church or really any specific one (of any of the sects). We can settle something right now: there are good ones and there are bad ones and then there are the inoffensively “okay” ones.

Settled? Good.

As quoted above, Paul believes that the church is the body of Christ, while God is head. We have heard it called the “bridegroom” in the past, a veritable lifeblood for the Christian movement. Paul dedicated all of his letters to the “church” and how they ought to behave amongst one another. In fact, it seems like the focus has shifted entirely from Jesus’ ministry of finding new recruits. Now, they are just learning how they ought to function as a religion with all the administrative and human resources woes that come with it – from orders of service to conflict management.

But churches have had a hard time with PR as of late. Do I need to list them? We can start at the sex abuse scandal at my home church and continue with the widely publicized, decades-old sex abuse scandals with the Catholic church. Some churches have been brash in their fight to maintain Christian ideals in government. Their most vocal fights have been about gay marriage, birth control/abstinence-only education, and abortion, and it is safe to say that at least those former two are losing battles (time will tell if the Planned Parenthood videos affect any real change). These are divisive issues, and standing on one side of them means that you alienate the other half – simple. Furthermore, churches tend to uphold a patriarchal view of society, something that turns off youngsters by the thousands. This all – and more – has led to dipping national confidence in the church as an institution. Trust in the Protestant church has fallen from 65% to 51% in 6 years, and faith in any sort of organized religion is at 42%.

So, we know why churches are becoming more and more unpopular, but does that mean they are unimportant institutions that will slowly fade into obsolescence?

Absolutely, ridiculously no. Regardless of public opinion, churches will always remain a cornerstone of society.

The fellowship piece is a big part of it, but gay guys in bars have “fellowship.” It cannot just be that.
Sure, it gives people a collective sense of morality, but hey, they could just read the Bible to get that, right?
It does good in the world – missions and collections for the poor and such – but many non-religious communities do this.

So.
What is it?

It’s God. It’s a group of people coming together to believe in something completely unseen, to revel in their inability to control the direction of their lives, to think about death and not fall apart, to adhere to something beyond themselves.

And in order to cope, I think you need a community. And a community of people coping together is just another name for a church.