Today’s passage: Colossians 1:1-8
This weekend, we’re starting a new series through Paul’s letter to the church in Colosse. What’s interesting about this church is that it wasn’t one that Paul founded. It seems like Paul himself didn’t get to Colosse with the good news of God’s Kingdom made available to us through Jesus. A man named Epaphras was responsible for sharing the good news there. Maybe Epaphras had heard Paul speak in Ephesus, some 160km away. We’re not sure. What we do know is that he was a native of Colosse, and that he shared the good news with his fellow Colossians, and that Paul counted him as a fellow servant of Jesus Christ. Perhaps a few others, like Philemon (whose slave Onesimus ran away to Paul, resulting in the letter to Philemon) were also personally aquianted with Paul. But it seems that most of the Colossian church would only have heard about Paul.
As with every church in every age, there were those who were trying to undermine the Colossian Christians. Paul, commissioned by Jesus to be His witness, writes to them to encourage them to live lives worthy of their citizenship as God’s Holy people.
But this letter isn’t a “stern talking to” kind of letter. Paul’s dominant emotion, as he thinks about the Colossians, is one of gratitude to God. The thing that mattered most to Paul was that God’s good news was spreading throughout the world – taking root and producing the fruit of new life wherever it landed.
Wherever the good news goes, it brings the offer of hope to the hopeless. Hope is essential to human well-being. Psychologist Aaron Kheriaty, considering those in danger of suicide, notes that “over a 10 year span, it turns out that the one factor most strongly predictive of suicide is not how sick the person is, nor how many symptoms he exhibits, nor how much physical pain he is suffering, nor whether he is rich or poor. The most dangerous factor is a person’ sense of hopelessness. The man without hope is the likeliest candidate for suicide. …We cannot live without hope.”
There are many source of hope offered in the world today. The hope of politics. The hope of financial security. The hope of relationships. The hope of escape. The hope of progress. But what sets the hope of the gospel apart is that it is a hope that comes from beyond this sinful world and offers us life beyond the destruction of sin and death. What’s different about the hope of the gospel is that it is grounded in what Christ has done and empowered by His Spirit in the world today. What’s different about the hope of the gospel is that it doesn’t just promise us newness of life in the future – it actually sets about changing us today; growing the fruit of faith in Christ and love for all God’s people.
No wonder Paul thanked God that the Colossians trusted in Jesus Christ and loved His people. Because for Paul, that was evidence that their lives were oriented around the hope of the gospel.
Where do you and I find your hope today? And what difference, if it is in the good new of Jesus, does that make to us?