Thursday of Pentecost 7 – Colossians 2:6-19

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

“I just have to be true to my real self,” she said. We were in my office when I was professor. This student was struggling with many issues, including sexuality. She was identifying herself as a member of the LGBTQ+ population. I am a student of Augustine, a theologian who lived in 4th and 5th centuries AD. Augustine would have been troubled by her statement. He had tried to be true to himself and found only misery and death. He learned, through much suffering, to be true to God and God’s gift to himself. As he said in the opening paragraph of his Confessions, “We are restless until we rest in Thee.”

The young person who sat in my office had been taken captive by a particular, contemporary philosophy, namely, that reality is something which we construct. She perceived that she was actually and man and wanted to conform her body to her inner conviction. This philosophy says that all reality was something we make so she could change her gender despite her biological nature. I am sure there is a great deal of suffering and difficulty behind that desire to change gender and I would never want to minimize that. But I am also sure that the philosophy which tells her that gender is only a construct instead of a thing she was given has also caused her great harm.

Paul warns us against being captured by the philosophy of the day. In his time, the philosophy in question seemed to be a sort of spiritualism which thought that only the non-physical world really mattered. Notice how often Paul speaks of body and physical things in this book and the passage which follows. “The whole fullness of God dwells in him bodily,…” This whole book contends with this idea and asserts that the salvation of the universe happened in a physical action: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Colossians 1:19-20. Paul’s words also speak to us in this time. We are the creatures of a loving and wise God. Sin has contorted His creation, but in love He has redeemed it, physically. Our bodies and our world are now things for which Jesus has died, rendering them of inestimable value. God loves this young person who sat in my office and who admitted to me her great struggle. I believe God was contending with this miserable worldly philosophy that day. I pray he used my words to help her.

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