If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity,passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice,slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts,kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Focusing on Things Above
It seems that Paul is asking us to look outside of this world and leave the reality of the world behind us. That is not the case. He is asking us to see this world in perspective. He is asking for Christians to see this world in light of the fact that the higher, grander reality is the reality that Jesus sits on the throne at the right hand of the father. We often get consumed with solving problems and dealing with the details. We move through the material world as though it is all that exists. Paul is asking us to see the material world as a Creation that reflects its Creator. He has said that the forms of this world are a shadow of ultimate reality. This does not mean that they are pointless or negative. It means that they are incomplete and fall short. Everything finds its origin and its completion in Christ.
This also is true of the life of the believer. A life lived in a zone of problem solving, material obsession, and worldly desire leads to decay on the part of the believer. This is shown by the corruption of God’s desires for sex, emotions, and other behaviours. The heart which is fixed on Jesus and his desires for his followers naturally moves toward a true love for God and for his Creation. Love is wrapped around a whole series of virtues which sound something like the fruit of the Spirit. The list of vices and the list of virtues are not exhaustive. The vices are a sample to reflect the kind of dark acts that drag a person further away from true life. The virtues are also examples which will flourish when the believer is connected to Christ.
Some read these lists like they are a moral code. In other words they believe that we live out the code in order to focus on things above. Some success might come with that approach, but it is not the full measure of what God desires. God desires that we start by aligning our hearts with his. It is when we choose to focus on God and seek his presence that our behaviours change. The direction in the second paragraph is to ‘let’. This echoes the sound of God’s voice in Creation. He said on each day, “Let there be …” In the same way God wants to speak truth into our lives and to let there be a life of light. What causes us to work against God? Why do we not allow him to do his work? It is often that we are living for something or someone else and deep down we actually feel like God is getting in the way.
father, may your face be what we seek. May we look to Jesus as he sits enthroned above. May we see this Creation in its right place. May we take time to see through the crises and the details in order to see the way that even the problems we face point beyond themselves to you as the solution.
- On what should the Colossians hearts be set?
- What should the Colossians put on over all the virtues, which binds them together?
- What does ‘heart’mean to people in the 21st century? What did heart mean to the ancient writers?
- On what is your heart set?
- How would you help those with whom you worship to set their hearts or minds on things above?