Back in fifth grade I talked in class--a lot. When saintly Mrs. Wilson reached the limit of her patience, she made me 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 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 my lucky Lotto numbers; 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 have a bad memory for rules, I lack the discipline, and I usually lack the will to follow them.
The Apostle Paul was one of the greatest rule-followers ever, yet he became a messenger of freedom. 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 exchanged one kind of teaching for another. As a result, he had but 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)
Both passages refer to “teaching.” Both teachings have perfection as the goal, yet the two kinds teaching produce very different results. Part of the the mystery of Paul’s letter to the Colossians revolves around this very issue, and provides the perfect week’s meditation:
- What kind of teaching can lead me to perfection in Christ?
- What does “perfection” mean?
- Is it possible in my life?
- What does the Spirit mean when he says “in Him you have been made complete” (Colossians 2:10 - NASB)?
We could spend a lifetime in Paul’s letter to the Colossians looking for answers, but in my experience these questions are rarely asked. Perhaps dwelling on them this week could change the course of your life as a follower of Jesus. Do you dare?