The hope of glory

What are Colossians, and why should I care?

I recently felt an urge to re-read the short little book (a letter, actually) titled “Colossians.” I had underlined some sentences in the past so I figured I’d recall the gist of it with a brief peruse. Wrong.

It seemed brand new in spots. The last time I’d actually studied this book I was using the King James version of the Bible; now I generally use the NIV. The more-readable language made the book seem unfamiliar, which wasn’t a bad thing as it turns out.

After reading it through, I got curious about the people it was sent to. Who were they? Where were they? What’s there now?

What kind of work did they do? What kind of historic, cultural, religious and political background did they have?

And why should I care? How does anything in these few pages apply to me or anyone else in Florence, SC, USA, in 2010?

I looked up the town of Colossae in several reference books and didn’t find much. So I went to the internet. There I discovered a few interesting things.

It doesn’t exist today. It was wiped out in an earthquake soon after this book was written, perhaps within months. Although somewhat rebuilt, the road system was changed and Laodicea became the greater city.

Colossae was an ancient Roman-governed city located in Phrygia, on an important trade route in Asia minor leading from the port city of Ephesus to the Euphrates River. Today that area is part of Turkey. It was known for a peculiar “purple wool” called colossinus.

The native Phrygian people were of Gaul / Celtic origin, a fact I find interesting, being somewhat of Celtic origin myself (Irish, Scot, English). Located in a valley on the south side of the Lycus River and on a well-traveled road, the long-established city had attracted quite an eclectic population.

Traders and travelers came through on a regular basis and stopped to rest, stock up, buy and sell, and many stayed to live and work.

With such a diverse background of the inhabitants, there were many cultures and religions represented in this town. Business, society, religion, politics, entertainment – there was something going on all the time.

And it was easy for new followers of Jesus from such backgrounds to mix Celtic or native angel-worship practices into their expressions of Christian faith. No wonder Paul felt compelled to write this letter.

Thinking about those people of so long ago, I realized just how similar Florence, South Carolina seems to Colossae. Eclectic population, at the juncture of major interstates, near the ocean and the mountains, lots of people traveling through who later settle their families here…

Not to mention a wide variety of religions. There’s still a temptation to mix pagan practices of old religion with faith in Jesus Christ.

But there is a critical difference: Christianity is not a religion. Many religions contain methods for acquiring “salvation,” works or sacrifices or payments to buy one’s way up to God, into paradise.

Our God did the work himself. He made the sacrifice and paid the price to come down to us, to human beings. He lives inside humans, and he talks.

“Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) — that’s why I should care.