“OK, so what’s the catch?” The guy had just given me his best pitch for a timeshare vacation package at the resort we were enjoying in the Dominican Republic. (Beautiful place, by the way). They told us that if we would go to this presentation that we could get exclusive access to the 5 star restaurant at the resort and prefered seating! So, we agreed. Sitting there and listening to this pitch, I recalled all the other times in my life when I was younger and had not been sufficiently suspicious of an offer “too good to be true.” That’s because offers too good to the true, usually are.
This isn’t new. There’s even an old Latin saying “Caveat Emptor” Let the Buyer Beware. Ever since there was that little incident in the Garden with a snake, we humans have had to continually learn the hard way that you gotta read the fine print! But that’s not bad. In fact, it’s when I am most attentive to the particulars hat I find myself the most confident and the most at peace.
Look at our lesson today in Colossians 1:18-23:
BRETHREN, Christ is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, provided that you continue in the fight, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Colossians is one of the so called “Prison Epistles” because it was written by Paul while he was in jail for his faith. The city of Colosse was about 12 miles from the city of Laodicea, you know, the city mentioned by John in Revelation. It was in Asia Minor and had a growing Christian population since Paul had planted the church there during his missionary journeys.
Unfortunately, the growth of the Church there also meant the growth of some bad theology! It’s always been this way. The devil is always trying to plant weeds among the good seed of the Truth. We shouldn’t be surprised by this. And, in fact, we should both expect it and prepare for it. That’s a good thing because it means we can never put our faith on “automatic pilot.” We have to stay vigilant. We have to stay awake. We have to pay attention to the details! Hey, this sounds like it’s going somewhere!
The Colossians had fallen for a bad theological pagan teaching about “elemental spirits.” What that was was the teaching that there were some basic “spirits” that created the world and ran the world. Paul wants these faithful to know that Jesus is the Creator and Supreme Lord over all spirits and He should be the focus of our worship and devotion, not these other “ideas” that constantly threaten to divide our devotion! So Paul tells these believers that Jesus is the head of the body. Jesus is the beginning. Jesus is the “firstborn from the dead.” And Jesus is “preeminent (great word)” in everything. In other words, our focus must be on Christ so that we won’t be distracted and fall for a message that is “too good to be true.”
And then Paul tells us how to keep from falling into that trap. He tells the Colossians and us that we have to do our part to stay focused. We have to keep fighting, stay stable and focused and don’t “shift” from the Gospel. Of course that presupposes you know that the Gospel is, doesn’t it. So, do you? Do you know what the Gospel, the Evangelium, is? Paul says it a few verses later in verse 27 – “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The Good News is a Person, Jesus Christ.
Today, are you attentive enough to avoid being sold a bill of goods that turn out to be a bad deal in your faith? Do you know how to focus on Christ so that you won’t be distracted by the temptations to bad theology? If you will simply keep fighting, stay focused, and be faithful to the fullness of the Faith preserved for you and given to you as a gift you’ll reap the blessings of wisdom by being Orthodox on Purpose.