The Emptiness of the Argument
Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that's not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don't need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything. — Colossians 2:8-10, The Message
Sometimes I think that we miss out on the things that are most obvious and right in front of our faces. It’s like the whole, “A fish doesn’t know it’s in the water,” phenomenon. There is a line in this passage that I think is like that and the ramifications of missing it are significant.
Peterson translates, “Everything of God gets expressed in him…” or in the NIV, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form…”
It is for this reason that we don’t need to get caught up in the big words and intellectual debates. Let me be clear, I don’t think that Paul is arguing for some sort of anti-intellectualism or that he is arguing that what one thinks or believes doesn’t matter. Of course Paul thinks all those things are true, otherwise why write all that he wrote? Why care so deeply at helping these congregations shape their identities? I think what Paul is doing here though is making sure that everything is rightly ordered.
You see what is of first importance is the lived life. Christ, the Divine, are first and foremost embodied and lived realities. Could God have simply spoken the reconciliation, restoration, and renewal of all things into existence? I think so. However, the Divine Being chose to be embodied and do the work of reconciliation, restoration, and renewal as a man from Palestine.
I think it’s beautiful as we read in the book of Acts that the Jesus movement was initially called, “The Way.” This points so clearly to what we read in the writings of the early church that emphasized how people lived out their faith.
When we begin to truly consider “Jesus is Lord” as the center of our faith as opposed to theological conceptions (that’s not to say that wrapped up in the phrase, “Jesus is Lord” aren’t a ton of theological conceptions!) everything becomes a bit clearer. If Jesus, the person of Jesus we see reflected in the Gospels, is of the first order in our faith then we begin to center on the things that mattered most to him. I think that we can start in Matthew 5-7 and work our way out from there. Matthew 5-7 can be summarized as, love your neighbor as yourself and love your enemies.
What are the big words and intellectual double-talk that catch your attention? What are the arguments that draw you away from an embodied faith where you seek to love well? How can you press beyond them?
These are the questions that I’m asking myself today and it makes me uncomfortable. The intellectualized faith of my tradition is much more comfortable than the embodied faith of Jesus.