Saturday, April 09, 2011
Hidden with Christ
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." - (Colossians 3:1-4)
I woke up this morning and this verse was in my mind. It's not often that this happens, especially when I've not been reading or studying a given passage and it becomes highlighted in my thoughts out of the clear blue. At first I wasn't even sure where the passage was found in the Scriptures. It wasn't until later that I looked it up that I realized where it was found in the New Testament. But I was familiar with these verses so I lay there and waited to see if God had something to say to me about the verses.
The first thing that came to me was that Paul says, "For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." My typical response to this verse is that it's saying something to me on a personal level as an individual follower of Christ. But then it came to me that this letter was not written to any single individual. It was written "to the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse." (v.2) So, Paul's instructions here are not meant to be taken as individualized components. He's speaking to a community of believers in a region of Colosse when he reminds the Church that their "life is now hidden with Christ in God." He's wanting the Church in Colosse to understand that the life of the Church is hidden in Christ.
You can see further evidence of the fact that Paul is speaking to a community of believers (rather than to an individual) when he says "set your hearts (plural) on things above" and "set your minds (plural) on things above." Individuals only have one heart or mind. Paul uses the plural in this case because he's talking to a group of people; the Church.
So, what does it mean for the life of the Church to be "hidden with Christ in God"? Again, I think I always thought of this passage as saying that my personal life was to be found in Christ. But it says our life (in the Church) is "hidden". If something is hidden then it means you can't find it. It means you're not supposed to find it. It's gone. So, our life in the Church is forever hidden in Christ. All that is left of us is now in the Church is in Christ. We have died. Our life (as a Church) has been swallowed up in the glorious life of Christ our Lord.
Paul also says that "Christ...is (our) life". We have no other life apart from Christ. When we are "hidden with Christ in God" we are wrapped up in the Divine mystery and only when Christ appears will we appear. If Jesus does not manifest Himself, the Church is still hidden. Without Christ there can be no Christian.
Reading chapter 3 of Colossians again with this new awareness of Paul's instructions for a Body of Believers, it's now plain to see that his intent was to provide a basis and framework for how the Church was to relate to one another in fellowship. As he says in verse 16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God." He continues to talk to a community of Believers here, urging them (and us) to let the word of Christ live in us powerfully as we teach one another and encourage one another through song.
When we come together as a Body, the purpose of our teaching, then, should be to encourage one another. We should share the "word of Christ" with each other in love. Our singing should also be full of the word of Christ, and even this is not a selfish pursuit. The singing of songs is also meant to share the word of Christ with our brothers and sisters. It's meant to be shared from a thankful heart full of gratitude for what Christ has done for us all.
I'm not exactly sure why this verse came to me in the night. But it does seem more obvious to me now that God wants His Church, and specifically the church family where I am a functioning member, to understand that Her life is only in Christ, not in the individual people who take part. We, as individuals, are called to be lost in Christ when we come together (as a community) and to discover Christ's life in our midst. We are called to be filled with the word of Christ and to encourage one another and even to sing to one another out of our sincere gratitude for the amazing love of God that has been lavished upon us all.
Now, to practice the simple truths of these verses in our time together. That's where things get really exciting.