I enjoy watching (some) classic Disney movies. Sadly, some that I still think of as new—Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King—are now considered classic. (Ahh, 90s Disney! Where have you gone?) But I mean the classic classics, like Robin Hood and Cinderella and, my personal childhood favorite, 101 Dalmatians. Sure, they’re maybe a little campy by 21st century standards, but they’re still enjoyable. However, there is one aspect of these films that really irked me as a kid (and that, frankly, still drives me nuts today): all the credits are at the beginning. I remember popping a tape into the VCR (“Be kind. Please rewind!”), excited to watch this great cinematic masterpiece, only to be delayed by names of hard-working people who I’m sure totally deserve to have their names read (though I never did). Thank goodness for the fast-forward button! Let’s just get to the good stuff already! Sadly, we tend to treat some sections of the Bible the same way. We skip over or just endure them like obnoxious credits at the beginning of a movie. However, unlike any Disney animation, every single word of Scripture is inspired—even the ones we’re inclined to skip—from the laws of Leviticus to the genealogies of Chronicles to the salutations of the epistles. Every last word is profitable for the edification of even an impatient speed demon like me. Let me show you what I mean.
Paul begins Colossians the way he does most of his epistles, by introducing himself and then commending his audience. In this case, he praises the Colossians and Laodiceans for their reputation of faith and love. I suppose that seems pretty ho-hum; it could probably apply to any Christian. Maybe Paul was just using a canned greeting when he says, “We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith and love which you have for all the saints” (Col. 1:3-4). Wait. What was that? Maybe this isn’t just a throwaway greeting. Let’s slow down and go over that last part again. “We give thanks to God…praying always for you since we heard of…the love which you have for all the saints.” All the saints. Not some. The Colossians were known for their love for all the saints. Now that is truly praiseworthy, and definitely not something that could be said of just any believer.
I admit I’m not much of a news junkie; however, when I do check in on the news, it seems that what pops up is the outrage d’jour: who is throwing muck at whom today. In this culture of hatred and protests, everyone, from political pundits to celebrities to Joe Schmoes on Facebook, feels compelled to offer their loud (and generally negative) opinion of something-or-other that somebody-or-other did, said, or posted recently. I’d love to say that this is only the world, that such filth hasn’t infiltrated the church; but you know as well as I do that that’s baloney. Sadly, the body of Christ is just as susceptible to the petty arguing and bickering heard in every other sphere of society.
Except that’s not how it’s supposed to be. We’re called to be different. Christ says that the world will know us by our love (John 13:35). Love is the hallmark virtue of the Christian life, greater even than hope and faith (1 Cor. 13:13). Love can cover a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8), and without it we are nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-3). However, my love falls regularly well short of the mark set by Christ (John 15:13). I’m quick to complain about, deride, belittle, or ignore others. I don’t want to serve; I want to be served. I don’t want to encourage; I want to be encouraged. On Sunday mornings, I prefer to chat with people I know and with whom I have common interests, while not giving attention, encouragement, or love to the rest of my local church body.
This post is for me. If it’s for you too, walk with me in considering just who must be included in this group of “all the saints.”
Having love for all the saints means I love saints …
- whose preferences differ from mine
- whose worship practices differ from mine
- who come from a different demographic than I do
- whose background differs from mine
- whose political leanings differ from mine
- who struggle differently than I do
- who hold theological positions different from mine
- who are in a different tax bracket than I am
- who are less (or more) educated than I am
- who are just really obnoxious
- who are needy
- who appear to have it all together
- who look different from me
- who suffer differently than I do
- whose kids behave differently than mine
- who parent differently than I do
- who are gifted differently than I am
- who don’t seem to love me very much
- whose personality differs from mine
- whose interests differ from mine
- whom I’ve never met
I’m sure you could add to my list (though I’m not sure I want you to. I’m daunted enough). Of course, love for any one of these groups may easily look different from love for another. I realize that I am not called to love my brothers and sisters in Nepal or Venezuela the same way I’m to love brothers and sisters inside my local church. However, I am still called to love all the saints, whatever that might look like. Paul had never been to the Colossian church (Col.2:1); he knew them only by their reputation of loving all the saints. What reputation does your love have?