God on Monday
'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 giving thanks to the Father' (Colossians 1.11-12).
Welcome to the twenty-first God on Monday reflection on ‘purpose’!
Most of the New Testament letters were written to and from lockdown situations. That is why they are coming alive in new ways for people around the world. The words above from Colossians are an example. They sound as if they were written for people longing for the lifting of restrictions.
That is indeed the case. Those restrictions were due to the risk of persecution, rather than of disease. But the wisdom of those letters applies also to our fetters. The above exhortation ‘to endure everything with patience’, for instance, can help us every time the ongoing anti-contagion protocols feel onerous, especially for those of us belonging to the tiny proportion of the world’s population that has been vaccinated.
But exercising such patience is not a case of stoicism and ‘stiff upper lip’. The author of Colossians is saying that this patience is available to us through God’s ‘glorious power’ at work in us. That power is awesome, as it is the same power that raised Christ from the dead.
The resurrection of Christ is not just an historical event. Nor is it merely a doctrine. The radical message of the New Testament - for which there is no precedent in earlier writings - is that this resurrection means that Christ’s followers will likewise rise from the dead and that they will be filled in the here-and-now with the power of the resurrection.
During this pandemic, several of my friends and relatives have contracted the virus. Most of them recovered without medical intervention, others only survived through hospitalization, while one of them (married with three young children) lost his fight against the virus within the first few weeks of the outbreak.
All this has compounded my sense of loss from family bereavements and the upending of familiar patterns of work and leisure. Yet it has made the power of the resurrection seem more real to me. While the last two Easters have been touched by sadness, I cannot recall any Easters so joyful.
That joy has been born not from things going well, but from the endurance, patience and gratitude spoken of in the above verse. These are marks, that verse encourages me to believe, of Christ’s glorious power at work in me.
The perpetuation of restrictions may be severely trying our patience, exacerbated in some cases through the threat of lost business, bankruptcy or unemployment. But the New Testament's lockdown letters teach us that in the midst of it all we can know God's glorious power at work within us. For that is what on earth we are here for.
Peter S Heslam, Director of Faith in Business