A Good Reputation

By Ed Little

A Reading from Colossians 1:1-14

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

2 To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

3 In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. 7 This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8 and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Meditation

I have a friend with an unusual hobby: “checking off” state capitals. He and his wife, over several years, have visited (and bought souvenirs in) capitals from Augusta, Maine, to Sacramento, California. The Apostle Paul, traveler that he was, also “checked off” major cities — from Damascus to Ephesus, from Philippi to Athens, from Corinth to Rome — but one city he never visited was Colossae, located in today’s western Turkey. Someone else brought the good news to Colossae. Today we begin reading St. Paul’s letter to Christians he hadn’t met.

“We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus,” Paul tells them, “and of the love that you have for all the saints.” Yes, Paul knew a few of their leaders. Epaphras seems to have been the “church planter,” and Onesimus (who plays an important role in Paul’s brief letter to Philemon) is also mentioned in the letter. But beyond them, these Christians were strangers to him. Yet something so dramatic had happened, their lives had been so transformed, that people beyond their community marveled at God’s grace toward them. Paul marveled. The Colossian community had earned a reputation for the triad of virtues made famous in 1 Corinthians: faith, hope, and love. And people were talking about them!

Are people talking about us? What are they saying? What’s our reputation? That’s a question which Jesus himself encourages: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). Jesus tells his friends that people beyond the Christian community will judge us on the basis of our mutual love. If they don’t see it, they will rightly reject us (and, sadly, reject Jesus as well). But if they do, they’ll know that we’re the real thing. The Colossian Christians passed this test. Will we?

The Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little II was bishop of Northern Indiana for 16 years after serving parishes in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Joaquin. He is the author of three books; most recently: The Heart of a Leader: St. Paul as Mentor, Model, and Encourager (2020).

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Langtang – The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Morristown, N.J.

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