‘How can we help our broken and divided postmodern world find hope and peace?’
In his Letter to God’s People in Colossae, Paul the Apostle writes of the hope that has awakened their faith in Christ Jesus and their love for one another. He reminds them that this hope is found in God’s good news which is itself gounded on the truth.
What is more, Paul observes that not only were God’s people in Colossae growing in their faith, love and hope, but God’s good news was bearing fruit and growing in the whole world.
These words are very encouraging for us today.
Let’s consider the flow of Paul’s thought: He begins by thanking God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ for their faith in Christ Jesus and the love they have for all the saints,… because of the hope laid up for them in heaven (1:3-5). There is a causal link between hope and faith and love. Hope is not the consequence of faith and love. Rather, hope has awakened them.
This is so important. The hope that God’s people have is the motivation for their faith and love.
Let’s consider this. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul writes of the reality and the significance of Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead. He points out there that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, our own future resurrection from the dead is negated. Our professed faith would be meaningless and the associated Christian morality a joke. As he says in 1 Corinthians 15:32, if the dead do not rise, we may as well ‘eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’.
But the hope of which Paul speaks in Colossians 1:6 is not simply optimism.
Certain hope. In verses 5b – 6 Paul writes: Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing – as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, …
It’s important to notice the emphasis Paul puts on the word truth. The gospel, he says is literally, the word of the truth. He could have left out any reference to the words the truth, but he doesn’t. He wants to stress that the essence of the Christian message is true.
Reflecting on this, we can see that God’s good news is beyond human invention and imagination. No one of us would have invented a God who was prepared to forgive a self-preoccupied and faithless world by such a costly and humiliating death as occurred at Calvary.
The gospel is also true, historically. Paul implies that that the accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are no invention. The records are true and trustworthy, supported by eyewitnesses.
Furthermore, the gospel is true experientially. By this I mean that when people put their trust in Jesus Christ who is at the center of the gospel, they discover that their faith is not a hoax.
Response? It is so important we are assured that our own faith and our love for one another as God’s people are grounded in the hope that is laid up for us in heaven. We need to ask ourselves, “Is my faith, love and hope in response to God’s good news?” Paul assures us it is the truth and nothing but the truth.
Indeed, we need to pray that God’s Spirit will awaken within us, as he did in the Colossian Christians, an ever-deepening love for the Lord Jesus Christ, and for his people across social, cultural, and racial divides.
In the 2nd century, God’s people in the Roman world were under great suspicion. Tertullian, one of the church leaders at the time, responded by contrasting Christians with the Roman society: ‘Look, they say, ‘How they (the Christians) love one another; and how they are ready to die for each other’ (for they themselves are readier to kill each other).’
Furthermore, it’s worth praying for opportunities to talk with others about the inconsistencies and unworkable nature of the diversity that postmodernism is imposing on the western world.
Robert Letham, for example, observes that ‘the world of postmodernism is entirely arbitrary. If the emotions trump reason, we have no rational grounds for anything… Postmodernism cannot stand the test of everyday life’, he says. ‘It does not work, and will not work. It fails the test of Ludwig Wittgenstein, who insisted that language and philosophy must have “cash value” in terms of the real world in which we go about our business from day to day. To do that, we assume that there is an objective world and act accordingly. If there is not, life could not go on’ (Letham, The Holy Trinity, pp.452f).
Because God’s good news is based on the initiative, action and promises of the living God, we can be assured that his word and work will continue in today’s world. God’s passion is to rescue the lost. But we too, have a part to play: the testimony of our faith, the example of our love – which includes forgiving those whom we believe have wronged us – and the reality of the hope we have, will all bear witness to the Lord Jesus Christ. But, above all, we need to pray that God in his mercy will send his Spirit into the world, opening blind eyes to the truth of the hope, the joy, and the peace that God holds out to us.