The Apostle Paul is a better man than me.
He is a better man than most of us.
His writing seems to show a certain level of patience and perspective I doubt I could hold in prison. Who knows, I might need to be persecuted first to find out what I’ve got inside of me. But the fact remains, Paul’s impressive.
He is in prison.
The church is under fire by some crazy teaching.
The church is being challenged to remain faithful.
The church has people who have been unfaithful.
He writes a letter TO the church TO calm the storm.
The opening of this letter changes everything. It’s overlooked as a simple greeting, but it’s a masterful entry into his work. It shows us the heart of Paul.
He opens with:
“To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae.”
Paul’s doing something extraordinary. First, remember the letter is read out loud and not handed out with footnotes.
Imagine being part of the community but having let everyone down. Imagine knowing the “great” Apostle Paul has sent a letter from prison. The community has gathered to hear it.
You’re potentially shameful for your choices.
You’re potentially afraid because you hosted a meeting to hear the false teaching.
You’re potentially upset with yourself because you’ve considered yourself unfaithful.
You potentially think Paul will come in high and mighty.
Correction is scary. I hate hearing the words “Can I talk with you for a second?” I immediately think the worst. I get cold sweats. I uniquely get angry. I am ready for them to tell me I’ve done something wrong. I anticipate the bad. I fear they will try to control me.
I can sympathize with the unfaithful group who hears Paul’s sent a letter. I would have sat in the back. I would have crossed my arms with a tinge of anger. However, my heart would be heavy with a sense of shame.
This is why Paul is a better man than most of us.
He begins by calling me something I wouldn’t have called myself.
He calls me a saint.
He calls me faithful.
He calls himself my brother.
He is calling out my true identity before he brings correction.
The Apostle Paul has a godly habit of saying who we truly are before he corrects what we’ve done wrong.
I’ve received correction and given it. It sucks to admit it, but in the past, I’ve not come with that attitude. I’ve come ready to make sure this person learned not making sure this person remembers who they are in this world.
Most people would call someone who sinned a sinner, a person who lied a liar, a cheater; you get the point. Paul refuses to join that agenda. He refuses to do what so many of us have done.
We come with the problem, not the praise.
We come with the issue, not love.
We come with the anger, not the resolve.
Paul knows better than anyone that God has done something in these people through Christ. He knows they’ve forgotten. He knows they’re under fire. He has solidarity; therefore, he has compassion.
He will transform them instead of losing them in any zeal to correct. He leads them not by their faults but by their true identity.
Leading with true identity in mind should change everything for us.
Especially those of us who preach.
And those of us who have kids.
And those of us who are human.
Paul teaches us that our correction should first call out true identity before we address the lousy behavior. He shows us to see problems as the fruit of forgotten identities rather than just poor behaviors. His perspective creates a context for what he is going to share with them.
He paves the way for them to receive it. The goal isn’t for him to vent it’s to preserve their faith and transform them. Venting is met with resistance while understanding opens the heart.
Calling the church saints and faithful disarms the community.
It reminds the community.
It opens up the community.
They realize their safe with Paul.
He knows them.
He sees them.
He doesn’t attack them.
He remembers their identity.
He doesn’t sit on a high horse but calls himself a brother.
If I were in the room, I would begin crying at the opening line. I would uncross my arms and lift my head. I would feel the heart of a father caring for me.
Paul is saying some of you know you’ve messed up, but you don’t know how I see you.
Day 2 of my writing challenge done.
Over and out.
- Chris C