|The Apostle Paul,
Rembrandt c. 1633
The Apostle Paul was a Jew, trained in the finest religious instruction available at that time. Fervent in his faith and committed to eliminating false religious beliefs, he was a zealous persecutor of Christians before his conversion on the road to Damascus. How did he understand Jesus’ teachings and deeds related to peacemaking? Recently we discussed other disciples and their views on this topic, but how about the Apostle Paul?
When Paul was in prison in Rome, he wrote a letter to the church at Colosse that was arguing over different views of who Jesus was. Paul’s epistle to the Colossians is a marvelous statement of the role of Christ and, in fact, biblical scholars believe that six verses (Colossians 1:15-20) of this letter may have been an early Christian hymn, used to teach important doctrines.
Take the time to read these powerful verses. The text begins by establishing Christ’s reign over all of creation, both in the spiritual world and the physical world. Paul emphasizes this point by deliberately referring to things in heaven and on earth; to make sure the point is not missed, he then refers to the visible and the invisible.
Paul describes Jesus’ central role in the process of redemption and summarizes Christ’s ministry as one of reconciliation. God the Father chose to reconcile all things in creation to himself by “making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” For the Apostle, the gospel message was summarized in the concept of reconciliation and peacemaking. It was not reconciliation merely on the spiritual level, but – as these verses make clear – a reconciliation that included all the dimensions of shalom described in the Old Testament and reinstated in Jesus’ “manifesto.” For indeed, “in him all things hold together.”
- I find great comfort in the fact that in Jesus all of creation holds together. When things seem so out of control in our world or in our personal lives, it is reassuring for me that the Bible teaches I can trust God because “he’s got the whole world in his hands.”
- The Apostle Paul also teaches me that reconciliation and peacemaking is not just an abstract theological concept, but is practical – it relates to “things on earth.” God is in the reconciliation business, making people whole, making communities whole, and that’s part of our calling as well.
- To be Christ-like, then, means to work for peace and reconciliation. This is what it means to “follow Jesus.”