Thursday 24th September 2020
Colossians – Paul’s Labours for the Gentiles
Colossians 1: 24 – 29
I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.
Paul responds to his sufferings with “rejoicing”. He speaks from the reality of enduring persecution – literally imprisonment – as a result of his commitment to Christ. That may not, I suspect, be exactly how many of us feel!
I recall the words on a poster I saw many years ago: “If you were accused of being a disciple of Jesus would there be sufficient evidence to convict you?” In his exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate” (Rejoice and Be Glad, 2018) Pope Francis said this: “Jesus himself warns us that the path he proposes goes against the flow, even making us challenge society by the way we live and, as a result, becoming a nuisance. He reminds us how many people have been, and still are, persecuted because they struggle for justice, because they take seriously their commitment to God and to others. Unless we wish to sink into an obscure mediocrity, let us not long for an easy life, for “those who want to save their life will lose it” (Matthew 16: 25).” He goes on to contrast the persecution we face as a result of steadfast faithfulness with suffering we bring on ourselves: “… we are speaking about inevitable persecution, not the kind of persecution we might bring on ourselves by our mistreatment of others. The saints are not odd and aloof, unbearable because of their vanity, negativity and bitterness.” He concludes, “Accepting daily the path of the Gospel, even though it may cause us problems: that is holiness”.
For Paul it is not all about himself but about Christ: “It is he whom we proclaim”. (Colossians 1: 28) Elsewhere (2 Corinthians 12: 9) Paul acknowledges that it is not in his own strength that he can endure suffering but through God’s all-sufficient grace. That grace has potential to reach and strengthen us – even in lockdown.
God of all grace,
enable us to live as those who are worthy of persecution:
may we not be odd and aloof
or unbearable because of our vanity, negativity and bitterness.
Enable our lives more and more to reflect the love of God seen in Jesus.
Bless all who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake:
May they know your strength and help in their suffering.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.