Part 1: Introduction | Part 2: Acknowledging the Divide | Part 3: “Great Is Diana!” | Part 4: Letting Hate Drive | Part 5: Pants on Fire | Part 6: Turning Toward the Light | Part 7: Breaking Down the Walls | Part 8: Beyond Tolerance | Part 9: Love | Part 10: Peace
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Col 3.16).
We live in the light by living out love (Col 3.14) and peace (Col 3.15).
But we need to go a step further.
I suspect that a lot of people would prefer to keep to themselves and mind their own business. Especially these days, we see a lot of confrontation and shouting and volleys of snarkitude—what we used to call “flame wars” back in the early days of the internet—and some people say, “You know what? I am so done with that.”
Someone I know often says, “People are the worst.” And theologically, that’s true (Rom 3.10-18).
But that’s only half the story.
People are also in the image of God (Gn 1.26-27; 9.6; James 3.9). And like God, they are not solitary persons; as God is in eternal fellowship among the persons of the Godhead, so we are designed as fundamentally social creatures; one of the first things God said about the first human is that it was not good that he should be alone (Gn 2.18). And following his eternal plan, God is in the process of gathering, from every ethnicity and nation, a people for his name—a large assembly that no one can number, united in corporate praise to God.
Sure, there are introverts, and they’re not inherently less godly than extroverts.
But a solitary life is not in our genes, or in our cards. We’re designed for relationships.
And the “friends” or “followers” we see on social media are not often healthy patterns for those relationships.
Paul says in our passage that as we grow individually in our relationship with God—which we do initially through the “Word of Christ”—we necessarily move outward, interpersonally, with what we’re learning. It’s not enough to hold our relationship with God close to the vest, as “a very private matter”; part of our growth is interacting with other believers about what we’re learning.
There are at least two reasons for that.
First, as a long-time teacher, I know that the best way to learn something is to teach it. As a simple example, I minored in Greek in college, and I’ve used it repeatedly in the years since: in my work in publishing back in the last century, and in my private study, and in my teaching at BJU since 2000. This year I volunteered to teach a section of Greek 101 to meet a scheduling need—the first time I’ve ever taught Greek.
Boy, am I learning a lot.
I’ve been capable in Greek for many years. But now I’m realizing how many details I’ve lost over the years because I just didn’t have any reason to recall them.
Leaps and bounds. Just by teaching 101.
You’ll understand your relationship with God significantly better if you’ll describe it to others. I promise.
There’s a second reason to share your faith with other believers: they’ll reciprocate. That may involve telling you what they’ve learned, thereby adding to your storehouse of understanding. It may involve encouraging you in the difficult times, cheering you through the rough spots. It may be as simple as listening to you and really hearing you. There’s a benefit in that.
And so Paul says we should be “teaching and admonishing one another”—and he specifically names our worship together as one of the ways we do that. We’re not just “friends” on some social media platform, trying to impress others with how delightful our lives are, or to shame them into thinking—and voting—the way we do. We’re partners, colleagues, in the great work of God in gathering and developing a people for his name.
We seek to achieve that goal before any other.
Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash