After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.
Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.”
I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
Ministry done in the name of Jesus Christ always happens in the real world, among real people. We may focus on spiritual and eternity realities, but everything we do in the church happens within the course of life in this world. We deal with time constraints and resource limitations. We face personality clashes and make honest mistakes. Even as we attempt great things for God, we do so with our feet planted on the broken, dirty ground of this world. It is through the dust and clay of God’s creation that we follow Jesus, and it is among flawed and needy people that we serve God’s purposes.
So it was for Paul all those years ago. The final lines of his letter are deeply marked by the realities of life. There were real people, like Archippus who must have been waiting for a word of encouragement, and all the faithful folks in both Colossae and Laodicea who were the first to read Paul’s words and even to see his own handwriting. Someone would have delivered this letter, carrying it from Paul in Rome 1,000 miles away to its destination. We see here that Paul didn’t write the letter himself, but dictated it to an assistant, probably someone with better handwriting. Then Paul added his own signature in what must have been a distinctive script, possibly because Paul had poor eyesight. We are also reminded that Paul was a prisoner under house arrest in Rome awaiting the trial before Caesar’s court that would result in his death. Some might regard these real life issues as mere historical trivia with little value to our theological understanding, but Paul lived these realities, knew these people and let it all shape his expression of faith. In the same way, Jesus lived in this world and experienced all the wonderful and ordinary things of human life.
And so it is for us today. We love Jesus, read God’s word, pray, worship and live out all the important devotional aspects of our faith, and we also walk in the reality of this world. We eat and sleep. We fall down and get back up. We deal with difficult people and make trouble ourselves. We face limitations and fears. We enjoy happy moments and loving relationships. All these things color our lives and form the backdrop for our relationship with Jesus, who doesn’t call us to follow him out of this world, but invites us to honor him here and now among the people we know. Just as Paul wrote a greeting by his own hand, we serve God in and through the realities of our own lives, even as we long for the glories of the world to come.
Father, thank You for this world and for the great work of redemption You are accomplishing here. Help me to follow Jesus in all I do, through the good and the bad of life. Use me to make this world a better place for the people You love. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian