Today’s Reading: Colossians 2
Charles Spurgeon told of an event that took place in ancient Rome. A severe famine had struck the North African colonies, so Emperor Nero sent ships to the stricken area. When the starving people saw the ships arriving, they shouted with joy. But Spurgeon recounted the tragic end of the story. When the ships sailed into port, the North Africans discovered they were full of sawdust to lay on the floor of the circuses Rome was exporting to the colonies. The people yearned for sustenance; they received sawdust.
Unlike what was exported from Rome, I’m happy to say that in the book of Colossians we are about to find the arrival of something that will fill our hearts and souls—Jesus. The book of Colossians is a vessel bringing Christ back to His rightful and proper place and it’s a book that fights religions that want to export sawdust and a circus!
The apostle Paul said to be very careful of people wanting to distract you from the main attraction. Consider his warning:
“Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything. . . .
So don’t put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days. All those things are mere shadows cast before what was to come; the substance is Christ. Don’t tolerate people who try to run your life, ordering you to bow and scrape, insisting that you join their obsession with angels and that you seek out visions. They’re a lot of hot air, that’s all they are. They’re completely out of touch with the source of life, Christ, who puts us together in one piece, whose very breath and blood flow through us.” (Colossians 2:8-10, 16-19, MSG)
When you have a lot of people, you have a lot of opinions. And you can have a lot of opinions, but not have a lot of truth. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not everyone is entitled to their own truth. There is a difference between truth and opinion. The problem comes when you think your opinion is the truth.
We have to define what is opinion and what is truth. We must hold on to truth for dear life and hold onto personal opinion very lightly. Truth is that which is true for all times, all people, and all places. It can’t be an American truth. It can’t be a Democrat or Republican truth. Truth is truth. Opinions are for our personal world and always have an expiration date. Opinions don’t last forever. But truth doesn’t expire; it has no expiration date.
Author and pastor Charles Caleb Colton once said, “The greatest friend of truth is time, her greatest enemy is prejudice, and her constant companion is humility.” What is catastrophic is when we think our opinion is truth and we are unwilling to listen to those who see it differently.
The apostle Paul is telling the church to grasp onto truth and not opinion. Colossians is a fighting book, and Paul is telling us to fight against syncretism. Syncretism is when we combine Christianity with so called “cool stuff from other religions.” In Colossians, Paul was fighting against this because the believers were trying to get two things synched with Christianity—ceremonies and philosophy, or more specifically, Jewish ritualism and eastern mysticism.
This is not just a first-century issue and problem. It is also a twenty-first-century problem. We see people trying to import sawdust into Christianity. Whenever we need Jesus plus something else, it’s sawdust. If we need Jesus plus a special book or to be part of a certain group of people or to wear a certain outfit, it’s a boat of sawdust for the circus. Tullian Tchividjian wrote a book that’s title says it all: Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Paul is fighting for the second part of the equation. Paul is telling us to stop inserting something where nothing belongs. If we do, it’s religion and religious, but not Jesus.