Back in fifth grade I actually had to write, “I will not talk in class” one hundred times on the blackboard. It was a classic educational moment. I was so short I needed to use a chair to reach the top of the board. I thought I would never finish. If only they had cut and paste back then! When I returned to school the next day--you guessed it--I still spoke out of turn in class.
The list of things I should not do has only grown longer since those days: I should not slap people in the face when they drive me crazy; I should not wager the mortgage money on a sure thing at the race track; I should not text in the movie theater (or while driving); and I should not spend as much time as I do cruising the social network. Perhaps you can add to the list of things I should not do. Don’t bother: I’ve given up trying not to do things. There are several problems with trying not to do things. I lack the discipline, I have a bad memory for rules, and I sometimes lack the will to follow them.
The Apostle Paul was one of the greatest rule-followers ever, yet became a messenger of freedom. His message was so scandalous people thought he was crazy. Imagine a man who had memorized every one of the 614 points of the Old Testament law writing these freedom-filled words:
Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (Colossians 2: 20 - 23)
This same Apostle of freedom had one goal for his converts: that they would resemble Jesus: “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ” (Colossians 1: 28). These two passages both refer to “teaching,” yet each teaching produces very different results.
The mystery of Paul’s letter to the church in Colosse revolves around this very issue, and provides a perfect Monday meditation--what teaching can lead me to perfect in Christ? What does “perfection” mean? Is it possible in my life?