We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people. ~Colossians 1:3-4
We always: What are the healthy life habits that you “always” do without thinking much about doing them? In this first month of the year, in this second week of January, it may be wise to consider ways of living that are life giving, that will bring life not only to you, but to those you love, and to those your life will intersect in the upcoming weeks and months. Notice in this first phrase that Paul is in community with his life habits with Timothy and a few others: “we” always, not just “I” always. What life habits do you always do together with a few others?
Thank God: Paul opens most of his letters with thanks. Paul starts with thanks. Giving thanks in Greek is EUCHARISTEO, a combination of two words, EU (good), CHARIS (grace). The good grace of God for which we are grateful. A heart of gratitude reveals the heart of God. Grateful people are aware and receptive to God’s grace, God’s good gifts, and are able to receive grace upon grace from the fulness of God, and express in their attitude to life and in their words their gratitude for God’s many gifts. How often in a day do you give thanks to God?
The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: Paul understood God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Paul often wrote into his letters this trinitarian understanding of God. Christ Jesus is mentioned by Paul in the opening phrase of this letter. God our Father is mentioned in verse 2. The Holy Spirit is mentioned in Col. 1:8, “your love in the Spirit.” God is our Father, just as Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). Paul always views prayer as the act of a community praying, not just the voice of the individual. God is Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is Lord and Jesus is Christ. These two titles for Jesus involve his authority, and his anointing and unique role as God sent.
When we pray for you: When do you typically pray for others during the day? I tend to offer up prayers in the morning, in the dark, while sipping a cup of coffee with a cat sleeping on my lap. I also tend to pray for others through the day as they come to mind, as I meet them, as I think of their names or lives. Paul opens his letter to the church in Colossae by giving thanks for people when he prays for them. For whom do you give thanks today? Who are you regularly praying for?
Because: Paul gives a pair of reaons for why he gives thanks in his prayers for the people in the church of Colossae:
- We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus: Though Paul has never been to Colossae, and never met most of the people in that church, Paul gives thanks in his prayer for this church because has heard of their faith, the faith they have in Christ Jesus. The Christian faith is faith in a person, the person of Christ Jesus, not faith in a religion. Faith comes by hearing, and is passed on by hearing. People hear about our faith, and that hearing will influence them in one way or another. How are people being influenced by hearing of your faith in Christ Jesus?
- The love you have for all God’s people: the second reason Paul gives thanks in his prayers for the people in the church of Colossae, is that they are lovers, lovers of God and lovers of all God’s people. The two greatest commandments, as we find in Luke 10:27, is to love God with our whole selves, and to love others as we love ourselves. I like to think of this two-fold love as a single rare, golden coin, with love God, imprinted on one side, and love others, imprinted on the other side. Hold that coin in your hand and you have both loves together. They are not to be separated, though you may only be looking at one side of that gold coin. Notice in Paul’s gratitude for the people of the church in Colossae, that he thanks God for their love they have for all God’s people. We do not get to pick and choose whom to love within the church. We may have our favorites, but God calls us beyond favoritism, into an all-inclusive love, like a big group hug, where we throw our arms around others who may be less lovable, yet needing more love than others. Jesus exhorted us in the Sermon on the Mount,
- I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. ~Matthew 5:44-48.