Book Discussion Series, Week 9
Colossians Remixed, Chapter 10: "An Ethic of Community"
From an “ethic of secession” (“strip off the old self …”), Colossians 3 progresses to an “ethic of community” (“clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility …”). While insisting that Paul’s exhortations do not constitute an oppressive “series of absolutes,” Walsh and Keesmaat emphasize that they are rooted in a particular narrative, namely, the narrative of Christ “died, buried, risen, ascended and coming again” (200). Taking the path opened by that narrative requires a choice that “invariably requires rejecting other paths.” It means moving beyond the “postmodern mall,” where abundant and wide-ranging options are kept continually open (170).
The virtues and practices expressed in Colossians 3 comprise a “political vision” that transcends but is not detached from the public life of “the empire.” And the authors get down to specifics on how a Colossians 3-shaped political vision might be lived out. War, bananas, diapers, bicycles and much more come into consideration. As for electoral politics, the authors make clear that an “alternative community” based on Paul’s gospel would not stand in aloofness from the need in the society around them:
For our family, municipal elections have become one of our favorite events as we take the kids to our local councilor’s office and get busy going door to door to get him reelected. That this man is a Christian is a bonus for us, but we would support him even if he weren’t. You see, his politics demonstrate the character of Christ. His first political questions about any policy or conflict have to do with justice, kindness and service to the most vulnerable. Such a politician is rare and needs our support (192).
Spend some time with this chapter, and see if you aren’t in some way stirred before very long.