Editor’s Note: This week I welcome David Hundert on the blog. David is an MDiv student and member of Faith Church. He preaches for me 3-4 times each year when I am away, and this past week I was my denomination’s national conference. Thank you, David!
Is hospitality just for hotels, restaurants, spas…or hospitals? Can we practice hospitality in our homes, in our friendships? Are you hospitable?
As we continue studying Colossians 4:7-18, the Apostle Paul mentions some of his friends, all of which were practicing hospitality. In verses 10-11, Paul mentions Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus, the only three Jews serving alongside him at this time. It makes me wonder what happened to the rest? According to one of the commentaries that I consulted, the author states, they “were the only Christians of Jewish birth who were actively cooperating with Paul in his gospel witness at this time.” Notice though, that they all send their greetings. They are all working closely enough with Paul that they are aware of who he’s writing to and probably the circumstances as well. With that, they send their greetings.
Another thing that stuck out to me about these verses, is the idea that Paul had to give special instructions to them regarding Mark. Why? As it turns out, between twelve and fourteen years prior to this, Mark had disgraced himself in Paul’s eyes by deserting him and Barnabas at Perga instead of going up-country with them to evangelize the cities of South Galatia. Mark had accompanied Paul and Barnabas during the first missionary journey, but returned home in the middle of it. You can read about that in Acts 13:13. When Barnabas wanted Mark to accompany him on the second missionary journey, Paul refused. Because of this disagreement, Paul and Barnabas parted company (Acts 15:39). Mark later joined Paul in his missionary work, and Paul praised him to others (2 Tim 4:11; Philemon 24). By this time, Mark had redeemed himself.
What we see in this passage is that Paul encourages the passing of greetings between churches. How could we keep in touch with other congregations? How can we encourage them? Faith Church is part of a local ministerium of various churches where the pastors gather monthly for prayer, study, and encouragement. How can your church have similar relationships with other local congregations?
The last thing that I’d like to add is that Paul mentions that these men proved a comfort to him. What would that have looked like? What does it mean to provide comfort to a brother or sister in Christ? I feel that it’s a given, that in order to be a comfort to someone, we need to understand the circumstances that they are in at that time. To do that, we have to be intentional about relationship. Instead we can get caught up in the idea that “so and so” has their life together, thus they don’t need me, or I’m not going to bother them with my problems. However, brothers and sisters, that is exactly when we need to be in relationship with one another. It has been my experience, that we as a part of the body of Christ need to intentionally work to make our church families safe places for each other to come and be open and honest. Matthew West, in his song “Truth be Told,” says
“There’s a sign on the door, says, “Come as you are” but I doubt it/’Cause if we lived like that was true, every Sunday morning pew would be crowded/But didn’t you say church should look more like a hospital/A safe place for the sick, the sinner and the scarred and the prodigals/Like me.”
When we realize that a church family is supposed to be like a hospital and we are all equipped to be there to wipe a forehead, or pray, or hug, or just be there for one another, we can all be a comfort to one another. Do you realize that we are all called to ministers? The definition of the word minister, is “The practice of caring for the physical and spiritual needs of others.” We are all called to care for one another. If you aren’t in a position to provide for the physical needs, than we can certainly pray for and with one another.
Next, in verses 12-13, Paul continues this theme mentioning his friend Epaphras. Paul states Epaphras is always wrestling in prayer for the church at Colossae. What does it mean to “wrestle?” First of all, the word “wrestle” comes from the Greek word “agōnizomai” is a verb and it means to contend with or struggle. It’s describing that Epaphras is engaging in spiritual warfare on behalf of the church.
What goal does he have in mind? That they would stand firm in the will of God, mature and fully assured. How often do we “contend or struggle” on behalf of our church family, that they would be mature, fully assured and effective within the community for the Lord? I’ll be honest. I need to contend more. I need to struggle more. In Luke 22:44, referring to Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, scripture states, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” The word for anguish is the Greek word, “Agōnia.” Sound familiar? What can we learn about praying with that kind of intensity? Within all of this, Paul personally vouches for him regarding the work and prayers that Epaphras is doing. To have an apostle of his standing, personally vouch for him would be a really high honor.
Next in verses 14-15 we read about Luke. This is the only place in scripture that Luke is identified as a doctor! You can tell by the way he wrote his gospel, that Luke was a physician. There were terms that were used in his gospel to describe the various state of people with afflictions, that were only used by physicians of the day. Yet he never identifies himself as a physician anywhere in his gospel or in the book of Acts. It is only here that Paul finally outs him as a doctor.
Also, at this point in his closing, have you noticed how many people have sent greetings to the church? There was clearly an effort by Paul and the other apostles, to develop the relationships between brothers and sisters amongst all of the churches. This effort had been fruitful as they contended for one another and greeted one another. They would even send support in one form of another to other churches as they had need. This can be seen in 1 Corinthians 16, when Paul addresses “…the collection for the Lord’s people.”
Finally, at the end of verse 15, Paul specifically calls out a woman named “Nympha” and asks that they send her his greetings. The neat thing is that it mentions that there was a church that met in her house. There were some areas where there may not have been many believers that would gather, so gathering in a house would not have been out of the ordinary. Other areas, for instance Jerusalem, would have been too large to gather in one person’s home. However, this didn’t give up on the possibility that there were smaller gatherings in homes that might have been an earlier version of our care groups! Not much is known about Nympha, other than her generosity in providing a place to gather. Either way you look at it, Paul is calling her out in a way that makes note of her hospitality. In what ways can we show that type of hospitality?