He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation;
for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created,
things visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—
all things have been created through him and for him.
He himself is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church;
he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
so that he might come to have first place in everything.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things,
whether on earth or in heaven,
by making peace through the blood of his cross.
Like Ephesians and Philippians, Colossians is one of Paul’s last letters, written while he was in prison in Rome prior to his execution. It’s similar to Ephesians in that it contains a mix of theology and practical advice, including a reiteration of the household codes he included in his letter to the Ephesians. It’s the richness of Paul’s theology, especially as expressed in the poem cited above, that strikes me most in the letter to the Colossians.
The poem begins by saying that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” and I can’t help but think that the highly educated Paul was deliberately invoking Platonic philosophy in his word choice here. We can’t see God, and as my atheist friends will remind me, have no scientific evidence that God is real. But with the coming of Jesus into our world, we can know what God is like. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus.
In language reminiscent of the first lines in the gospel of John, Paul goes on to say that Jesus is “the firstborn of all creation“, “before all things“, and that “all things have been created through him and by him“. He is the glue that holds the universe together- “in him all things hold together“. The geeky part of me can’t help but think of Tillich’s ground of being, or perhaps the wilder speculations of quantum theory, or maybe even the concept of “the Force”, which according to Obi-Wan Kenobi, “surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.” Poetically speaking, I think Paul wants to say that the universe is neither geocentric or heliocentric, but Christocentric. “In him we live and move and have our being.” If you want to understand the meaning of life, look at Jesus.
“Through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things“. The world is not as it should be. People have different ideas of how it “should be”, of course, and often it seems that our very attempts to “fix things” lead to unexpected and negative consequences. We can’t fix ourselves, much less the world. But fortunately for us, it isn’t up to us. God has already taken care of the problem in a very surprising and unexpected way. What once went wrong has now been reconciled- put right- through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. “Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.” If you want to have a part in helping to make this world a better place, look at Jesus.
The Force, as it is understood in the Star Wars mythology, may be a fictional construct necessary for the telling of the story. But like most lasting stories, it nevertheless tells the truth. “It’s true; all of it.” There is a God, and we come to know and understand and become empowered by that God through Jesus. And like the Force, He is always with us.
And that’s good news.