Colossians 4: 7-18 contains a list of characters that have varying backgrounds. We haveOnesimus, a runaway slave who has been transformed by the Lord from useless to useful (read Philemon for his story). We have Mark, who deserted Paul during the first missionary journey, creating the great divide between Paul and Barnabas (read Acts 15:36), now restored and seen as a fellow laborer who should be welcomed, not shunned. Then there is Epaphras, wrestling in prayer, emptying himself for others.
We also read about Nympha, faithfully holding church meetings in her home (not an easy thing to do, from personal experience). Aristarchus is a fellow prisoner, along with Paul, in chains for the Gospel. Finally we see Archippus, who like many of us seems to need a kick in the pants to finish what he started in the Lord, to follow through with something that we don’t need to know the details of. Others mentioned: Tychicus, Luke, Demas, Justus – they’re not just throwaway names of throwaway people.
I love this passage, because it shows what Christianity really is. Just men. Not better or worse than the rest of mankind. Just men (and women) changed by an encounter with God, still struggling but holding firm to the faith. Wrestling, encouraging, deserting, failing, faithfully opening their homes, witnessing to the point of chains, failing to finish the job, etc. Again – just men like the rest of us.
Sometimes my cynicism gets the best of me and I get frustrated with fellow Christians. Once in awhile it’s valid, as hypocrisy and apathy rage, but most of the time it stems from my own self-centeredness. I want people to fit into my box, my own interpretation of justness and justice. I need to understand that for 2000 years it’s been a series of people like those in Colossians 4. Just men, pouring through time like thousands of points of light. Not better, not worse, but justified through the blood of the Lamb and bringing Him, through their own broken vessels, into the darkness.
I read this list and I am brought to repentance in how I view my brothers and sisters in the Lord, holding them to a higher standard than I hold myself to, making the narrow gate narrower. I am driven today to read I John and remember that if I can’t even love my own brother, how can I claim to have the love of Christ within me?