Re:Verse passage –Colossians 1:15-19 (day three)
“He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.”
There’s a way to live such that death will not put an end to life. That way is not a narcissistic fountain-of-youth fantasy (which has no basis in reality), but rather an intimate fellowship with one another through forgiveness, generosity, faithfulness, kindness, humility, and sacrifice. Jesus is the one person in all of history who has lived that kind of life. In the future, everyone will live like Jesus. Or, to put it another way, everyone who has life in the age to come will be alive only because he or she has learned the eternal kind of life. This is Paul’s point, that Jesus is the first of his kind, the first human being who lives the eternal kind of life, and the one—the one—who will teach you to live it.
Re:Verse passage – Colossians 1:9-14 (day three)
“growing in the knowledge of God…”
Knowing is for science, believing is for religion. Is that how you think about reality? We say “faith-based” when we talk about an initiative that springs from a spiritual motivation. We say “evidence-based” when we speak of a practice or program that proceeds from a scientific paradigm. We hold in high regard the stories of “persons of faith” who seemingly are proven right despite what all the “persons of knowledge” have said to the contrary. But does faith trump knowledge? Surely that’s not faith’s trajectory. When, for example, you have received God’s provision for a need, that is one instance in which having faith that God could do something has become knowledge that God is actually capable of doing it. It is possible, then, to grow in spiritual knowledge. This is Paul’s prayer for us.
Re:Verse passage – Colossians 1:1-8 (day three)
“We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have.”
We moderns tend to translate events into quantifiable data; therefore we might imagine Paul had heard that many had “prayed to receive Christ”. But the witness of the New Testament is that when this new movement generated news, the biggest story wasn’t that people were “walking the aisles”—celebration-worthy though that would be—but rather that forgiveness began to happen, patterns of living began to change, enemies got reconciled, the poor began to be noticed, resources got shared, family wounds began to heal, and people sacrificed their lives for others out of love for Christ. Living in such a way is all but unheard of in this world. When it happens, it is momentous news. Paul’s words give us hope that we can generate such tidings again.
Re:Verse passage – Matthew 28:18-20 (day three)
“I am with you always.”
If a person sets out to speak to his neighbor according to a pre-conceived series of talking points with a pre-determined goal, chances are life with that neighbor will not grow very dear. That’s because people aren’t pre-fab slabs of protoplasm that respond predictably to meticulously applied stimuli. Revealing Christ to people requires less flow chart and more flow. Difficult questions, surprising twists, painful honesty, personal weakness—these all must remain on full display if you are to speak to someone about your own faith. That’s not good salesmanship. But Jesus is not a product. He’s the teacher of an eternal kind of life. And that’s why he says you will rely not on a set of principles, but on him. He never left you his notes, because he never left you at all.
Re:Verse passage –Matthew 22:35-39 (day three)
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
“The Lord our God, the Lord is one”—and he exists as an eternal fellowship of three persons; he cannot exist otherwise and still be God. God created us in his image. To be human, then, is to bear in our being certain characteristics that we share with God. This commandment, both in its original iteration in Leviticus, and as quoted by Jesus here, in addition to the implicit ways in which it appears throughout scripture, indicates that life in fellowship with others is one of those characteristics marking the image of God in us. We cannot reject fellowship with others and still remain the fully human creatures God intended us to be. To fail to pay attention to your neighbor is not self-preservation, but the beginning of the extinction of the human race, yourself included.
Re:Verse passage –Exodus 20:17 (day three)
“You shall not covet…anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Your neighbor is the one whose life draws near to yours in ways it doesn’t draw near to another’s. You each have the ability to encourage each other’s well-being and happiness. In fact, your neighbor is the best hope you have for being cared for in this life. And you are your neighbor’s best hope. Your taking issue with that particular ecology might be evidence for how much distance you’ve longed to put between your neighbor and yourself. The Bible sure spends an awful lot of time and energy pointing out how to structure life with neighbors for this to be the minor factor of life that many often take it to be. If your neighbor isn’t for you, who else have you got? The Bible would seem to say, “Very few.”
Re:Verse passage – Exodus 20:16 (day three)
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
It’s not uncommon that other people in your life would become useful to you in the same way that chess pieces are useful to a Grandmaster surveying the board. But regarding someone as useful and regarding someone as valuable are not the same things. When you regard a person as useful, you will think nothing of placing on that person all the responsibility and culpability from which you want to escape. If on the other hand, you regard a person as valuable, you will know that he or she is the very one who can build the kind of life with you in which you help one another grow in character. You will destroy a person you regard as useful. A person you regard as valuable will save your life.
Re:Verse passage –Exodus 20:15 (day three)
“You shall not steal.”
It’s not uncommon that people would cloud the meaning of this commandment, just a little. And a little is all it takes to produce a larcenous kind of life. It’s a short step from the belief that this commandment exists to protect your personal property, to the belief that you deserve to own as much as you can. By that reasoning, the more you acquire, the more security God owes you. But this commandment doesn’t protect your stuff from others. It is rather meant to protect others from you by forming your heart in such a way that you become a giver instead of a taker. The eighth commandment sets only two ways of life before you: If you’re not giving, you’re taking. Giving protects others; taking endangers them.
Re:Verse passage – Exodus 20:14 (day three)
“You shall not commit adultery.”
Children are the most vulnerable beings on earth. Other creatures will survive and thrive on instinct. A child will survive and thrive to the degree she is formed in spirit, mind, body, and social context. Marriage—for all of the attention paid to communication, sex, Mars, Venus, love language, etc., etc.—is a vocation ordered to the creation and raising of children. A mother and a father form the body and the character of a child, and whenever there is a disruption of that order, the child’s life bears the imprint of that disruption. Every family knows disruption in one form or another due to the general depravity of man. This commandment does not say, “Thou shalt not be fallen.” That’s now out of our hands. But it does say, “Mind the things you can indeed control.”
Re:Verse passage –Exodus 20:13 (day three)
“Thou shalt not kill.”
The word translated “kill” is often—very often—translated “murder” instead. That makes it easier to digest. Who of us would murder someone? Of course, people do indeed commit murder, but that occurrence is, predominately, far-removed from all but the most violent strata of our society, and although arguments abound for the classification of abortion as murder, that’s not the legal reality in which we currently live. The broader word “kill”, though, which the original language would convey—what do you do with that? You might immediately envision exceptions to the commandment: capital punishment, warfare, etc. The problem is that exceptions tend to multiply. If you thought about exceptions in light of the commandments, though, instead of thinking about the commandments in light of exceptions, how would that change the way the you live, if at all?