It's the end of the month again and I am doing another reflection on the #transitlounge book-of-the-month, Colossians Remixed: Subverting The Empire by Brian J. Walsh and Sylvia C. Keesmaat.
This book is a great chaser to last month's book, The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann,
as it expands upon the ideas of living a life of true freedom in
Christ; freedom from the status quo, from the "way things are," from
What is empire? Well, it is a powerful structure of
a society that believes in the captivating myth called "the story of
progress." According to the authors, it "proclaims with all the
certainty of faith that civilization will blossom, peace will reign, and
we will enter into an age of prosperity if we allow human reason to
freely investigate the world by means of the scientific method and
transform that world through technological power." (pg 30)
there is something wrong with this story. It is but an illusion, used
by the powerful to maintain power and encourage it's citizens to remain
sleeping in the security of this dream. For "when a whole population
dreams the same dream, empire is triumphant." (pg 171)
In reality, the
dream is a nightmare for all but the privileged elite, who continually
profit in the ruination of others. Remember what I said in my previous post? That the "rules" don't account for the brokenness, so there
is no way to play fair? This is what happens when empire seeks to dominate and control the world and all other "lesser" societies; when progress pollutes and bulldozes and legislates, all the while disregarding the powerless if not downright feeding off of them.
However, there is a different way in which we don't really "play" the game at all. And it breaks all the
rules of progress and practicality with the simple message of love in
action; the love of Christ and His community. The love that lays down his life for a friend; the love that becomes the servant.
The book addresses all of this through the lens of the book of
Colossians, as Paul was advising people of the way to live subversively
to the empire of their time. The authors bring Colossians to life, help us
understand its meaning, and direct us toward a life application.
I would say
that my favorite segments of Colossians Remixed were the historically situated
fiction of the experiences of Nympha, who is mentioned in the original
book of Colossians as hosting a church in her home. It reminded me of my
own exercises in empathy series, and I must say, story is always the
primary way you are going to reach me. Often, truth shines all the more
brightly and clearly when it is wrapped in a work of fiction. (C.S.
Lewis, George MacDonald, G.K. Chesterton, etc, have probably shaped my
worldview more than any modern-day theologian.)
But the very true story of Jesus, which the authors point out is also our story
as believers, informs the narrative of a believer's life and praxis.
What is praxis? Basically, the shape of our ethics; our course of action
as we participate in the life of the Kingdom of God. Again, I urge you
to read the book; it delves into manifold issues with practical advice
For now, I'll leave you with this timely and timeless quote of the church's own praxis: "Put on...compassionate hearts, kindness,
humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one
has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has
forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love,
which binds everything together in perfect harmony." Colossians 3:12-14
Grace and peace to you.
Oh! And go read the book!