What are so many people in the world looking for, deep down inside? They are looking for things to be right. They want their lives to feel right. They want to feel wholeness. But where do we find it? I would suggest Paul gives us a clue in the greeting he writes in his letter to the Colossians.
As I mentioned in the previous post, Paul begins his letter to the Colossian Christians, intent on encouraging them, in verse 2b, he continues this encouragement by greeting them with a line that is very typical for him. “Grace and Peace to you from God our Father.” Scholars note that “grace” was similar to a typical Greek greeting, and “peace” was similar to the typical Jewish greeting, “Shalom” which in Hebrew refers to peace.
Paul is not just interested in customary greetings, though. Notice that he adds “from God our Father.” Paul is building the framework of his letter on a foundation of the grace and peace that only comes from God. Paul could have said that he himself was greeting them. Instead he points them to God as the source of grace and peace.
Let’s pause and think about the ramifications of that for a minute. People don’t want to be caught up in sin and pain and turmoil it brings along with it. They want wholeness, and so they know they need grace. Grace is a posture of unearned favor toward someone, and here Paul specifically says it is from God. This is how we can be declared holy. God makes healing, wholeness and holiness possible through his gracious gift of Jesus.
People are also longing for peace. Most of us humans do not thrive under anxiety, stress, and uncertainty. Peace, or shalom in the Hebrew, is a rather deep concept. It is a sweeping idea of wholeness and flourishing, being at peace with God, with each other, with ourselves, with nature, even when life and circumstances are not calm.
Think about how rich that is. Grace and peace is available to us from God! Isn’t that so encouraging?
The rest of the section, verses 3-8 are an Introduction, where Paul will continue his encouragement.
In verse 3, he starts saying he always thanks God for them when he prays for them. Thanking God for them and praying for them is such a good example that we can practice. We can do what Paul did and pray for people.
Do you have a practice of prayer? Do you have a list of people that you pray for? Paul clearly did, and I would encourage you to do the same. There are great apps for that. But what it will require, most importantly, is the carving out of time to pray. I don’t know if Paul is referring to some time he did this all by himself, or if he is referring to prayer in groups. Both are vital.
I meet with my friend Chris about once a quarter, and we have lunch, talk about life, then go to one of our cars and pray together. Our small group prays together. And I also try to spend time every day praying alone. But what should we pray for people?
When Paul prays, he thanks God for his friends. I suggest that you not only establish a prayer practice, but also that you thank God for each person on your prayer list. This might be especially helpful and potentially life-changing if you take the sacrificial step of putting people on your prayer list who you have a difficult time with. Start praying for them. Thank God for them, and watch God transform your heart and mind toward them. Ask him to do just that!
But why is Paul so thankful for the Christians in Colosse? We’ll see what he has to say about that in the next post. Furthermore we’ll learn whether or not he would be thankful for us.