To many people, the essence of Christianity is the teaching that we should love one another. It is a focus on the actions and attitudes with which we approach and interact with other people. A good Christian is one who does no (or limited) harm to others, seeking their welfare, and “doing unto others as we would have them do to us.” Of less importance—much less importance—is what you might believe or think about any particular theological idea. For these folks, Christianity is a matter of how we treat others, not how we think about God.
There is, of course, much to be said for this. All of us have heard stories of so-called Christians who have acted in hypocritical ways, embarrassing the name of Christ. And, in truth, the Scripture puts forward a challenging picture of the Christian as one who demonstrates all the fruit of the Spirit when interacting with others.
However—and this is a BIG “however”—however, Christianity is not a moral code. It is not about how we treat others, but about how God has treated us… IN JESUS CHRIST.
At the core of Christianity is Christ. To think of Christian faith and practice is to think on the Person and Work of Jesus. Christianity sprung forth in this world following the events of Jesus’ life. The core teachings of the Church are the teachings of Christ. The faithful actions of His people are modeled and directed by Jesus as Lord. What the Church thinks (doctrine), the way the Church worships (doxology), and the way the Church acts (ministry) are all an expression of Christ Himself. To find Christ anywhere but at the center of the Church—and the center of our individual lives—is to be practicing a “Christ-less” Christianity.
Yea, but, who would do such a thing? Answer: … You… Me… All of us. Because that is what sin does—it moves Christ from His rightful place as King and Lord of our lives, and replaces Him with something else… often something good and nice, (like how we treat others; having a good marriage or family; serving at church; etc.) but always with something less, much less than the real thing… Christ Himself!
Anytime Christ fades from the center of our lives, anytime our actions or beliefs or feelings are shaped primarily by anything or anyone other than Christ Himself, we are in danger of turning our Christian faith into just another religion which tells us how to live. Morality, as important as it is, is NOT the essence of Christianity. The Golden Rule, as great as it is, is NOT the core of our faith. Love for one another, as necessary as that is, is NOT the goal of our lives. Christ is. Nothing else compares with Him. He is our incomparable Christ.
As you prepare for worship on Sunday…
1. Read Colossians 1:15-20.
2. What does it mean to “image” something? Why do we need/want an “image” of God?
3. If Jesus is the perfect image of God, what about God can we not know?
4. What might being “firstborn” mean? Besides birth order, what else is involved?
5. What is Christ’s relationship with creation? We know that He is Lord, but how do these verses describe things?
6. What kind of daily challenges would one have where this teaching would help? In other words, what do you think the Colossians might have been thinking to prompt Paul to remind them of this? Or, better yet, if were to say to a friend at church, “Yea, but remember Colossians 1:15-20…” what/why might you mention this to them?
See you Sunday! –Henry