Friday, October 06, 2006

Complete in him?

For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the godhead bodily, and ye are complete in him, which is head over all principality and power
Colossians 2.9-10 (AV)

So that's how I recall that verse, probably because I heard a preacher quote it from that version some 25 years ago, and liked the sound of it.

But what does it mean? Some years ago, I heard someone claim that an unmarried man is somehow incomplete, and in response I quoted that verse. "Isn't he complete in Christ?" I asked.

Well, if a man loses an arm in an accident, he's, well, he's missing an arm, even if he is complete in Christ.

Good point! So I came across this verse in today's reading, but since it was in the NIV, it looked completely different. I'll include the preceding verse too:
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.
Colossians 2.8-10 (NIV)
Aha, so what this is talking about is not about whether you're complete without an arm, a job, a mate, a 40-acre spread with flocks and herds (which is another topic entirely). What he's talking about here is that Christ alone is what we need for all that good stuff we read the other day: to please God in every way, bearing fruit in good works, and all that. We do not need any extra secret knowledge or rituals or any esoteric philosophies in order to grow spiritually.

What does all this stuff mean about traditions and the basic principles of the world? Does that mean it's bad to study history, mythology, folklore, or string theory? I certainly hope not! I think the key thing is not to be captivated by them. And I think it's possible to be captivated even by the Bible in an unhealthy way. For example, there's an incense formula somewhere in the Old Testament, and it's to be used only in the Tent of Meeting -- and neither it nor the Temple are standing today. I wondered once what would happen were one to make up that formula today and light it. Was there anything magic about it?

Then, as if shaking off a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, I shook my head. I was about to take a useless side-trip. No, there's nothing magical about that incense formula; it was a distraction which could have turned into a captivation. Though it probably wouldn't have lasted long, it would have been a complete waste of time.

But I do sometimes worry whether I've already been captivated by the activities I fill my day with. Like my job. How to be diligent, a good and profitable worker, and do a good job, but not be captivated? Do let me know if you figure it out!

posted 10/7

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