Summary: Introduction to Colossians plus exposition of Col 1:1-2.
The game ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ first came to light in 1974. Players of D&D create characters which they live out in an alternative reality. And so D&D is a fantasy role playing game where players embark upon imaginary adventures in a created world. Although there’s a few variations of the game, a typical D&D game consists of an ’adventure’ where the players live and breathe another life story with all sorts of goals and ambitions as determined by the storyline. The fictional locations for these stories can vary: the story might be set in a city, another country, another planet or even in an entire fictional universe.
It is estimated that by 2004, 20 million people had played the game. There is something appealing about creating a new reality free from the problems and contradictions of this world. There is something seductive and exciting about living in a world filled with halflings, elves, dwarves, half-elves, orcs and dragons. A world where wizards memorize spells which expire upon use and must be re-memorized for the next day.
D&D draws people in—especially young people—because it has the power to capture their imaginations. In one of the latest games called ‘Forgotten Realms’, dragons fly the night skies, valiant heroes seek fame and fortune, the gods themselves speak through their pious servants, and mysterious wizards hunt the secrets of magic lost in time.
Symbols and images constantly remind the participants they are living in an alternate reality. D&D offers an alternate story for life—a world where kids can live out their dreams without the pressures and burdens of survival in a modern world. In this alternative reality, hopes and aspirations come true. ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ offers a Disneyland gospel which captures the imagination: for if you wish upon a star then all your dreams really will come true.
Teenagers aren’t the only ones good at playing games. Societies construct their own realities and live out their romantic fantasies. Ever since the Tower of Babel when mankind abandoned the idea of God at the centre of society, ‘the Lord scattered them over the face of the earth’ (Gen 11:9) and people conspired in their sinfulness and produced fragmented versions of reality. And so the games this world plays are foolish games of survival. Society dreams that we can rule ourselves and the world without God. In your dreams: the reality is that God put us in the world to rule over it as we live under the rule of God. And so together men and women and the created world were made to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
But outside Eden, dreams are more seductive than reality. Imaginations are easily held captive to lies which promise so much even though time and time again they fail to deliver. Society dare not admit that dreams of a brave new world may indeed turn into our worst nightmares. The pessimism of George Orwell who predicted widespread political oppression in 1984 has no place in the modern world. Hollywood movies predict the worst but so entrenched is the dream we laugh away apocalyptic visions of doom. However, judgment will come! But until it does our world lives the lie and it extends an invitation to Christians to abandon the reality of the gospel for the sake of a dream which leads to hell.
First century Rome was seductive. The world had never been safer, life was everything one could ever hope for or imagine. The Emperor Caesar was lord and saviour. Through his victories he brought peace and prosperity. Caesar was a worthy object of worship along with other lesser gods in the empire. And there was lots to give thanks for: advanced military power, safe travel unlike the world had ever known, aqueducts to carry water, economic prosperity, personal happiness and security. The prospect of a bright future. The key word was ‘peace’ and Caesar had brought peace in abundance.
Everyone loves a good story and the story of the Roman Empire can be summed up in two words, Pax Romana. Rome saw herself as the bearer of cosmic peace, fertility and prosperity. With the coming of the Roman Empire a new age had dawned because the gods were happy. And in conquering the barbarian peoples who populated the known world, Rome was ensuring that its story of peace was forced upon everyone—even if they didn’t want it.
This story shaped the rhythm of life in the empire. Feasts and festivals celebrated Rome’s victory over the barbarian hordes. Festivals in honour of the birthday of the Emperor; coins stamped with Pax, the goddess of peace on one side—weapons on the other. Sacrifices to those who ruled Rome. Unavoidable images and symbolism that reminded Roman citizens who were the gods in their world. The very fabric of society was ordered to retain the status quo: the economic importance of women, children and slaves was carefully guarded in Roman law. To the undiscerning Roman citizen it was ‘peace, perfect peace’. The Roman version of reality was seductive and it held captive the imagination of its citizens. Appease the gods—live the dream—join the emperor cult—pay homage to Caesar—conquer foreign nations in the name of the gods—go with masses and all your dreams may just come true.