Message: In Colossians 2 I can feel the anguish in Paul’s heart that he wanted to be there to say these things in person but from a prison cell he conveyed to them that even in his physical absence he was there with them in spirit. I often hear this phrase used sarcastically to decline going to an undesirable meeting or event so when I read this coming from Paul I had to erase that sarcastic filter. Paul really did want to be there because face to face conversations are best for communicating difficult things. Paul wanted to look at their faces and allow them to see his face and hear the sincerity in his voice because they were being pulled in a different direction by those with a different agenda. Paul affirmed them and urged them to stay rooted and built up by Christ so that they wouldn’t be deceived by persuasive arguments. He warned them not to let anyone take them “captive” by “philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, the elemental forces of this world and not on Christ.” As I read this I thought about how many philosophies and ideas are going around right now. We don’t think of them as such, because they have been crafted so well to intertwine pieces of God’s truth with humanistic philosophy. The truth is, God’s ways are not our ways and they don’t come to us naturally. They feel backwards and upside down to our human nature so even when we cling to one strong piece of truth, we often apply it in a humanistic way, so it is not helpful or effective. If we distort the application of truth, the truth becomes invalidated in the application. What should set us free has us now entangled into a web of humanistic philosophy. This is how so many people can know in their hearts that every human life has intrinsic value because we are all marked by God, but when we apply a humanistic approach to that truth we become more lost and more divided than we were before. The truth is unable to set us free because we have distorted the application with human philosophy and undermined the validity of that truth.
Paul continued by saying “don’t let anyone judge you” in the regard to food or drink or in the matter of festivals. These believers were being told they couldn’t be real Christians unless they followed the dietary restrictions of the law and the holidays of the Jewish calendar. This was never intended for the Gentiles but they found themselves under pressure because they wanted to do the right thing, but they were being pressured by men and not by God. As I read those words “don’t let anyone judge you” all I could think of was the million times I had heard someone say “don’t judge me” or “only God can judge me”. Paul was not implying that they could control the judgment of others, but that they should not allow the judgment of others control them. This is where humility and boldness meet face to face. We have to have the humility to ask God to show us the truth, and the boldness to live it out in spite of the pressure around us. We will never be rid of judgment and we will not be able to convince those who are following humanistic philosophies. They have another humanistic argument for everything. The most powerful way to convey the truth of the gospel is to actively live it out ourselves.