Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Colossians Remixed 32

Walsh and Keesmaat, in their Colossians Remixed, want to know “what kind of ethic” we find in Colossians 3:1-17. Good discussion follows.
Is the ethic life-denying and otherworldly? W-K contend Paul’s theology and this letter in particular is the exact opposite of an otherworldly ethic. Paul denies an otherworldly ethic in Colossians — and such denies connection with the head in Col 2:19. Christ forms a “body politic,” the Church (1:18) and the statement that the fullness of God dwelling in Christ bodily is the exact opposite of a world-denying otherworldly ethic (2:9-10).
But isn’t it about a “heavenly” ethic? They are to seek, according to 3:1, “the things that are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” W-K demonstrate very well that Paul has not an escapist but a “both/and” or a “now but not yet” eschatology. That is, they are to live by faith in the already-exaltation of Jesus to the right hand of God. Often they use the term “imagine” when we might expect “believe” and their use of “imagine” I think is helpful. Let this exalted status of Christ let you live by faith in a world in which Christ rules.
And isn’t the empire a this-worldly ethic that Paul is denying? Yes, indeed.
Thus, Paul advocates:
A resurrection ethic
An ascension ethic
A liberation ethic
An eschatological ethic
Isn’t this “hegemonic”? Isn’t this totalizing? Tomorrow.

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posted October 30, 2007 at 8:03 am

I do wish we’d spend, in the Church, much more time discussing what a ‘resurrection ethic’ is rather than the destiny of folks who honestly wonder about the nature and reality of a physical resurrection. Let’s talk about what it means, practically speaking, for any of us to ‘trust’ resurrection (in the positive James sense), rather than merely “believe in” it (in the negative James sense).
Ironically, the theological camps that tend to strip or minimize the Sermon on the Mount along with Jesus’ other ethical teachings, also have a very heavenly/after we die/resurrection focus. It seems to me that the resurrection gives the disciple the best (only?) possible footing to embolden him or her to actually follow the Sermon and the other teachings with any joy.
The ethical teachings of “love your enemy” and “offer the other (unslapped) cheek” or even “make good use of the things of this world without becoming attached to them” are very plausible within a body that will be resurrected. But I find the ethic impossible to do (with joy) without the hope of resurrection. Isn’t this certain hope the very thing that kept Jesus himself on the path of obedience? Trusting the resurrection is essential, foundational to the ethic (at least this one). One could even argue, I think, that the primary purpose of the resurrection is to allow/encourage God’s will (the ethic) to be done on earth as it is in heaven–for “sons of God” to be born into good works on the earth. Looking at your “image” post, maybe this is what we should be living and offering to people: “Trusting the resurrection of Christ (and the rest of humanity with him) makes an entirely different way of living possible–one based in joyful agape.”

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Dan Brennan

posted October 30, 2007 at 11:40 am

I love ethics being grounded in a “now but not yet” framework. It does have bearing on our relationships across economic, political, and social boundaries.

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Beyond Words

posted October 30, 2007 at 2:12 pm

Wow, I never thought of Jesus’ own hope of resurrection as being what kept him on the path of obedience. I have goosebumps. When he told Martha, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” we often reduce his words to merely comfort for her grief. But Jesus was announcing the power of the resurrection!

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