One of the things I love about the Bible is that it is so very real and so very unedited. If we were to write it today, much of it would be “Left of the cutting-room floor”. There are some really violent episodes that wouldn’t pass muster with those in Christendom who are sensitive to such things or who fear for the innocence of children. There are some very racy parts that fail to meet the PG rating that many would prefer the Bible were held to, let alone the G rating some insist on in their movies. There are parts I don’t particularly like because they portray the early Christians in a non-politically correct fashion that I too often have to defend, but they weren’t removed.
Then there are the really boring parts that record the names of folks long dead and the numbers of tribes and where they lived and fought and yadda, yadda, yadda. And don’t forget all the who-begats . . . zzzzzzzz.
The amazing thing is what we learn about the folks in the Bible, and about ourselves in these not so G rated or even the boring parts. Most of all we learn that they were human, with all the frailty, sinfulness, problems, and, occasionally, the triumphs that humanity brings.
Read closely the closing paragraphs of Paul’s letter to the Colossians:
My good friend Tychicus will tell you all about me. He’s a trusted minister and companion in the service of the Master. I’ve sent him to you so that you would know how things are with us, and so he could encourage you in your faith. And I’ve sent Onesimus with him. Onesimus is one of you, and has become such a trusted and dear brother! Together they’ll bring you up-to-date on everything that has been going on here.
Aristarchus, who is in jail here with me, sends greetings; also Mark, cousin of Barnabas (you received a letter regarding him; if he shows up, welcome him); and also Jesus, the one they call Justus. These are the only ones left from the old crowd who have stuck with me in working for God’s kingdom. Don’t think they haven’t been a big help!
Epaphras, who is one of you, says hello. What a trooper he has been! He’s been tireless in his prayers for you, praying that you’ll stand firm, mature and confident in everything God wants you to do. I’ve watched him closely, and can report on how hard he has worked for you and for those in Laodicea and Hierapolis.
Luke, good friend and physician, and Demas both send greetings.
Say hello to our friends in Laodicea; also to Nympha and the church that meets in her house.
After this letter has been read to you, make sure it gets read also in Laodicea. And get the letter that went to Laodicea and have it read to you.
And, oh, yes, tell Archippus, “Do your best in the job you received from the Master. Do your very best.”
I’m signing off in my own handwriting—Paul. Remember to pray for me in this jail. Grace be with you. Colossians 4:7-17The Message
The scholars tell us that Paul used a stenographer to record his letters and that even though Paul had very poor sight and failing health because of his imprisonment, he wrote these last personal greetings and instructions himself. They are mostly meaningless to us because we don’t know these folks. But what they do tell us is that this letter was written to real people, with real lives, real concerns, real failings, and real triumphs.
So go back and read this passage again and try to imagine who these folks were and what they meant to Paul. Savor these personal notes from perhaps the greatest evangelist in the history of our faith: a man responsible for the authorship of much of the New Testament; a man who cared enough for these folks to include a personal note to them in the midst of a mastery of theological instruction.
And imagine yourself to be Archippus and what it must have been like to hear that Paul wrote to you, “Do your very best.”
Pressing on toward the goal . . .