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The danger in dull sight

by Nathan Stewart last modified Jan 22, 2016 12:03 PM

There is very great danger to be found in the combination of impaired vision with stubborn pride. Optometrists have made great sport of this over the years, not the least among them, SpecSavers, whose admonishing phrase, "Should've gone to SpecSavers," has been famously pronounced against all manner of comic misadventures. From John Cleese (as Basil Fawlty) flagellating an occupied police car instead of his own misbehaving ride to a surf lifesaver dragging a fur seal ashore in an unwanted "rescue". Yet there can be serious consequences to faulty vision; especially vision of the spiritual kind.

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul was revealing to them their true state in Christ. They were rooted and built up in him and established in the faith; they were circumcised, though without hands; they were buried and raised with him in baptism; the record of debt against them had been cancelled and God had made them alive together with Christ. This, insisted Paul against those who would lead the Colossians astray, was the real state of affairs. Those promoters of self-made religion and asceticism, rather than leading the believers in the way of wisdom, were poised to take them captive.

Jesus’ warning against the blind leading the blind springs quickly to mind here, however, Paul will have none of that. Whereas these were certainly blind guides, the believers were those whose eyes had been opened. So Paul repeatedly urges them to act according to the truth that they have seen. If you know these things to be true then walk according to the truth. ‘If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why…do you submit to regulations…according to human precepts and teachings?’ ‘If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is.’

Believers in group-oriented societies often more readily understand the extent of our union with Christ and his body. The societies in which they live stand in stark contrast (and often fierce opposition) to the Christian walk. Having received Christ, therefore, they have little choice but to “walk in him” (2:6) at least with respect to communal and ritual practice. This is not for a moment to imply that such a walk is easy or without temptation but rather to point out that the contrast is stark. The believer is left in no doubt that identity in Christ has cut them off from the religious life of family or nation.

In multicultural society, we can be lulled into a false sense of community with those around who nonetheless hold beliefs that are completely opposed to Christ and his reign. To them the idea that Christ is ‘the head of all rule and authority’ (2:10) is an accursed thought; a notion whose effrontery is matched only by its wickedness. Ultimate authority is intolerable to multicultural society but tolerance towards almost everything else can leave our vision dulled to the very real divide between earthly and heavenly ways. Let’s rather keep our eyes sharp by diligently studying the Scriptures and ‘so walk in him…established in the faith, just as you were taught.’ (2:7)