Summary: Lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him. Bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. Read God’s word so you can get to know God better. Pray that God would give you his power to strengthen you?
Love is a great thing isn’t it? After all it is St Valentine’s Day. And even if it is the object of American cultural imperialism, even if it is taken over by advertising and media hype, love is what makes the world go ’round. What’s more, it’s at the core, the centre of Christian character.
Today I want us to think about how we might reflect the character of Christ in the way we live and I guess that means especially the way we love.
Simon was a leader of the Synagogue so when Jesus came to town he invited him to come and eat with him. After all Jesus had been making quite a name for himself as a religious teacher. It wouldn’t hurt to see what he’s on about. Maybe he also had a bit of the philosophy of “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. So Jesus went to Simon’s house to eat. But they weren’t far through the meal when there was something of a disturbance. A woman came in, a sinner we’re told. No doubt she’d been seen wandering the seedier parts of the city looking for men to pick up. But now she comes and stands behind Jesus in tears, weeping so much that her tears fall on his feet and so she begins to wash his feet with the tears and wipe them dry with her long flowing hair. She’s brought with her an expensive alabaster jar of ointment and having washed his feet she pours the ointment over them. You can imagine the perfume of the ointment filing the room. Well, Simon is appalled. What sort of holy man is Jesus if he lets a woman like this, massage his feet with oil? It just goes to prove what they’ve always feared about Jesus.
But Jesus could see what he was thinking so he tells Simon a parable about two men who were forgiven debts of a small amount and a large amount. Then he asks him who would love their creditor more. The answer is obvious isn’t it? The one who was forgiven the greater debt. “Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." (Luke 7:44-47)
The people of Colossae understood that truth. They’d received the forgiveness of their sins and the hope of eternal life, as Paul’s friend Epaphras had come to them to share the gospel with them. And as Paul begins his letter telling them how he prays for them he says “In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” He understands that the love they have for all the saints arises from the hope laid up for them in heaven. The great grace of God shown in their lives has been the motivating factor in their love for all the saints since they first believed.
But now they’ve come to something of a crossroads. They’ve started well, but forces have come into the church that threaten their future direction. These people are offering a better way forward, with fine arguments, compelling logic, helpful rules, rigorous demands. Theirs is the promise of immediate experience, a new power and self control, and a more mature faith experience. This is a fuller gospel than they learned from Paul and Epaphras. Not that they’re dismissing Paul’s gospel. Rather they’re saying you need to build on it to get a better faith experience, a more fulfilled Christian life.
You see Colossae was not unlike modern day Australia. It was a multicultural city. Lots of different religions were practised. No-one seemed to mind which it was. In fact the best solution seemed to be to take the best of everything; to create a religious mishmash, a spiritual cocktail. [e.g Apparently there was even one Colossian woman who had the distinction of being ruler of the Jewish synagogue and at the same the high priestess of the Imperial cult. It was her responsibility to protect the Jews and their worship of Yahweh as the one true God, yet at the same time officiated in the public worship of the Emperor.]