Tuesday, October 01, 2019

DE Ponderings

by Kevin Kessler

Colossians 3:1-17

Eugene H. Peterson in “As Kingfishers Catch Fire” has a warm place in his heart for Christian doctrine indicating that it has a spaciousness when accurately perceived. However, he contends that after becoming familiar with these understandings of Christian faith our imaginations wane and we fall under the less poetic world of conduct.

Michael Frost and Christiana Rice in their book “To Altar Your World” offer a similar focus using different language. Instead of using the language of conduct, these two authors talk about a Christian moralism which they assert gets us nowhere. The church, in their view, spends more energy working on a moral code that is difficult to prove than simply striving to love our neighbors as ourselves. A moral code is not the solution to move us closer to the perfect love to which God calls us.

In the letter to the Colossians, we find a comparable message. In chapter 3, verses 5 and 8 are found types of conduct that are less than attractive for a healthy community life. Concentrating on these moral issues would be quite easy to do since it seems appropriate to give significant attention toward avoiding these moral dilemmas to achieve a better society. But doing so has its drawbacks, one of which is causing division within the community. Consider how this might occur. Those who adhere to the moral code are accepted into the community whereas others who fail to live up to the better conduct are pushed outside the moral boundaries.

Verse 11 suggests that a renewed ideal moves us away from this division. Renewal breaks down the barriers and we no longer view each other with contempt. Rather, all are given a place in the community with equality.

Think of renewal as more than conduct. Think of it as incarnational living. Or as we learn in Colossians, “clothe yourselves” with these attributes: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and most of all, love “which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Eugene Peterson declares, “Putting on these ‘garments’ is a witness not of our own goodness…but of the hidden reality of Christ within us.”

As we wind our way through the concerns we face as the Church of the Brethren, would we benefit from focusing less on conduct/moral code and more on incarnational clothing? Would this incarnational clothing help us find our way beyond division and live more fully into a community where we see one another as equals in Christ? How would you respond to these questions? How are you responding to these questions?