For a long time it has been said – and I’m pretty sure I’ve said it myself – that if we could just live on an island with no one else there, having all the supplies and resources we would need, then we could be at peace, or at least finally get some rest. However, now that we’ve had this remarkable opportunity to learn so much about our culture and ourselves over the last 2 years we might argue that isolation isn’t the same thing as peace. For years we embraced technologies that distanced us but then realized that we weren’t actually all that thrilled once we encountered a mandate to live at a distance. Like a dog chasing a car, once we actually got what we wanted we didn’t know what to do with it.
So is isolation really the pathway to tranquility? Paul the apostle doesn’t seem to agree. I don’t think Paul would argue that temporary retreat has no benefit. But something he says in Colossians 3 works against the notion that true peace happens when we’re by ourselves.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.Colossians 3:15
I had to read this 2 or 3 times to let it sink in today – and the extra readings weren’t due to a problem with comprehension, they were necessary because I don’t particularly like this truth; so it took me a little longer to open the doors of my heart to let this in. And maybe that’s a point worth bringing up as well: passing over the passages that frustrate us simply because they frustrate us is really just a decision to be satisfied with a life divorced from the power of truth. We need to wrestle with the Text. We need to be honest in our devotional time. If we don’t like something we need to be comfortable enough in our relationship with God to tell Him, “I don’t like this,” and then ask Him to help us be shaped and molded instead of growing more stubborn and rutted.
And, like them or not, Paul tells us some things that matter in this text:
First, he uses the plural, “hearts”
- Paul seems to understand the “rule of Christ,” and by extension the “peace of Christ,” as a communal thing…not something that is designed to exist in isolation.
- Now, this doesn’t mean Christ isn’t Lord of individuals, but it does suggest that peace is perhaps most profoundly experienced when a community of people are coming under the rule of Christ together.
- The “heart” here is not a word of anatomy but a word of direction – the heart is the representative term that describes the part of us where motivation and passion and longing come from. It’s the center of our being, our core.
- So Paul is saying that the place where the leadership and Lordship of Christ must get to is the center of who we are…He must be allowed to be King in the “power center” of our life, in our “throne room.”
- There are plenty of people allowing Jesus to be a peripheral part of their life…He’s allowed to be connected, but not be central – the heart is off limits. This is similar to the difference between having a central heat and air system in your home versus having a window unit bolted onto the side of it – the window unit does a fantastic job at conditioning the environment of the one room it’s in, but the centralized system can control the temperature of the entire house from one location.
- The rule of Christ must take place in our heart, our control center, or we will not encounter it’s greatest benefits – for instance, peace.
Second, and similarly, he says that this rule of peace is a part of what we are “called” to as the “one body,” the church.
- So not only does Paul say that peace is predicated on a collection of hearts being ruled together, but the lives that those hearts represent are supposed to understand their position as united together in a single body – many parts moving toward a common purpose (a purposed defined from the outside and revealed on the inside).
- It is an interesting and clarifying question as well to ask, “what is a body?” Other than just the sum of its parts, what actually is a body?
- I wonder if the idea of purpose is supposed to be connected to this image of a body – of physical personhood.
- When I think about it, my body, my physical being, is really just a vehicle that receives instructions and functions to accomplish the goals of my consciousness.
◦ Even as I type these words this is really just a matter of my soul and mind creating a task and then my brain processing how to accomplish the task and then my body (eyes, arms, fingers, etc…) performing the task to reach the goal of the soul/mind. And the same is true when I walk across a room to get a second helping of macaroni and cheese or to turn on a ceiling fan – my physical body is a tool that carries out the commands of my brain…and if our bodies do things our brains haven’t commanded we assume there is something wrong and we need to either rest or receive medical attention!
The body doesn’t have a mind. The mind has a body.
◦ As I think about it, it seems almost haunting to disconnect the process of logging words, thoughts and ideas onto this screen…because to analyze the process in a disconnected way highlights the individual functions instead of the totality of the achievement.
This all might seem to be a little in the philosophical weeds, but then again maybe not.
Paul’s statement in Colossians 3 (“hearts” and “one body”) is foreign to us in Western culture. There is little peace in our communities, not large scale communities anyway. The more people we put in the same place the more factions and pet-causes we seem to have. So we naturally recoil from the idea that true peace – the peace of Christ – is predicated upon more than one person being present.
It might be that we actually only find peace when we stop thinking about ourselves. Which is a function that can only be accomplished in a communal setting. If you have no-one to serve or care for, then you are left serving and caring for yourself by default – and if peace by definition is the uniting of separated things, then it doesn’t even have the possibility of existing when we are alone.
And maybe the rule of Christ as the “head of the body” is supposed to help us stop focusing on our function, and instead just do what the “head” is telling us to do.
And in this scenario there isn’t any peace without the entire body working together because peace is actually a result of purpose – we experience our greatest serenity when we are working together to accomplish the purposes and goals as conceived and expressed by the “head,” by Jesus.
What if that’s how Paul is seeing this?
So, if peace is only possible in a community of people who are all seeking to let Christ be the Lord and Instructor of their lives is it any wonder that we have so little peace in our culture and in our world?
- And that lack of peace isn’t really about our inability to be alone or avoid conflict
- This lack of peace is actually rooted in our refusal to be led by the good Shepherd, the “head of the body”