The end of Colossians feels unexpectedly….anticlimactic.
For three chapters, Paul gives us some of the richest, loftiest theology and Christology in the entire New Testament, and when you get to chapter 4, things turn oddly social. “Tell so-and-so I said hey.” “Oh, such-and-such sends their love.” “Say ‘what’s up’ to what’s-his-name.” Just take a quick scan through Colossians 4:7-18; Paul sounds like a very excited social chair for a fraternity.
Because orthodox theology drives you into the ground.
The word “humility” comes from the Latin word humus, which means “earth” or “ground.” ‘Humility’ literally means staying close to the ground. When your imagination and heart is flooded with the awareness of the exalted Christ, the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), you cannot help but develop “social humility” – staying close to the ground with people.
Over the years, I’ve observed that I and other Christians tend to avoid living on this ground-level. We either want to live way up in the theological stratosphere (“What do you think about predestination?” “Are you pre, post, or a-millennial?”). Or we want to get extremely deep and subterranean (“What is your story?” “How is your heart?”). There is certainly a time and place to travel into the stratosphere and into the center of your soul, but the reality is most people live their lives on the ground level. In the ordinary. The mundane.
People are going to the grocery store. They are going to class. They are filling their car up with gas. They are mowing the lawn. They are dealing with traffic. They are studying. They are fighting with their roommates. That’s the ground level.
And orthodox theology drives you into the ground. In other words, Colossians 1-3 doesn’t lead you into parking your life in the clouds or the core; rather it leads you into the lives of real people. When you are united to the forgiving, ransoming, reconciling, risen Christ, you are not sucked away from the ordinariness of people’s lives; you are plunged into it.
Why? Because you begin to love what Jesus loved. Real people with real issues.
The first great sign of Jesus’ great, Messianic ministry was Him fixing a party foul for some immature teenagers that didn’t know how to plan well (John 2). There’s a massive crowd of 5,000 hungry men without food and so Jesus feeds them because the small details of their need for food matters to Him (Mark 6). Jesus regularly sees people with health concerns and He heals them, because the medical details of their lives matter to Him.
Real people with real issues – however small and ordinary – matter to Jesus. And your small, ordinary issues matter to Jesus too. He stays on the ground with us. He walks through the ordinariness of life with us. And because we are united to Him by faith, we embody those same instincts.
So ask people about how their classes are going. Encourage someone in their work. Remember people’s names. Take a minute to greet someone new. Invite someone over for a meal. Check in on how your friends’ family is doing. Listen. Remember. Follow up. Pray.
People live on the ground. And the small, ordinary details matter to our majestic, exalted God. Orthodox theology drives you into the ground.
– Matt Howell
Director of RUF at the Univeristy of Tennessee