Have you ever felt awkwardly out of place? Several years ago I had a long layover in a very crowded international airport in Istanbul, Turkey. I remember being herded through security, through terminals teeming with travelers, and finally sitting in the main thoroughfare watching the diverse hordes of humanity streaming by while I waited for my flight. I could not imagine a nationality or a skin color that was not represented there. Almost none of them looked like me or dressed like me or even spoke my language. I am sure very few of them held my values and beliefs. I felt out of place – like a vegan in a butcher shop.
In one sense, every Christ-follower should feel a little like this. When Paul exhorts the Colossian believers to “set your mind on things that are above, not on things on the earth”, he is really saying that we do not belong here. Our home, our heart, our values are not the same as those who are chained to this earth and held captive to its systems. Some things are of heaven and some things are of earth. Some things are spiritual and some things are carnal. We need to realize this and live the difference.
Paul writes that living differently means living righteously. It is important to note that he says this halfway through his letter and not at the beginning. Paul writes to the Colossians in a pattern that is repeated in several of his letters. He first lays a solid foundation of what God has done for us in Christ; then he tells us how to live. This is the main difference between Christianity and other religions. Jesus doesn’t just tell us to live moral lives; he raises us from the dead and empowers us to live right, as we were created to live.
Paul uses the first two chapters to tell us what God has done for us in Christ:
- He made dead people live
- He forgave our sins
- He canceled the rightful charges against us and nailed those charges to the cross of Christ
- He made peace with us through the blood of His cross
- He delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of His Son
After proclaiming all of this, Paul says as we have received Christ, so now we should walk in him. How did we receive Him? We received Christ by grace, through faith — not by our own power or effort, but by the power of God working inside of us. Eternal life is not gained by “giving it our all”; it is gained by receiving the ability from God.
This is what it means to have Christ in me as my hope. I have died, and my life hid with Christ in God. Jesus Christ is my life, and His life in me produces the fruit of righteous living in me. This affects the way I deal with others, including my spouse, my children and those I work with.
Where are you looking for life? Where are you looking for hope? It is not to be found on this earth, precisely because you ain’t from around here — you are born from heaven. This is why we feel so uncomfortable when we act like people who do not know Christ. It is also why we will feel at home with Him for eternity. So relax into your new environment, and trust Christ to bring forth the fruit of righteousness in you.