Reflecting on Colossians for Easter Sunday

From Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, by Dennis Hamm SJ, commenting on Colossians 3:1-4.

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As in Philippians, where Paul speaks of “God’s upward calling” and “our citizenship . . . in heaven” (3:14, 20), his exhortation here to seek what is above, where “your life is hidden with Christ in God,” is not so much about location as orientation. Since Christians have truly died and been raised with Christ in baptism, the concerns of this world can no longer dominate their attention.

This does not mean being so otherworldly that you’re no earthly good, but just the opposite: relating to others with the purity and selflessness that come from knowing Christ’s victory and sovereignty over all things. Just as Paul spoke of Christians’ having left the world without denying their flesh-and-blood existence on earth (2:20), so here he reminds them to orient their daily lives toward union with their exalted and risen head, Christ.

This is similar to his words in Eph 2:6, about our being seated with Christ in the heavenly places. For the only time in this letter, he uses that habits-of-the-heart word he used ten times in Philippians: Think of (phroneō). Keeping in mind that Christ is seated at the right hand of God, the place of highest sovereignty, is the best possible perspective for handling affairs on earth.

Further, Paul says, your life is hidden with Christ in God—that is, the divine glory already present and at work within you is for the time being invisible. This heavenly orientation of our earthly lives will eventually be heavenly in the literal sense at Christ’s parousia, or second coming, when you too will appear with him in glory. The contrasting orientations Paul speaks of here, heavenly versus earthly, are the same as those he expresses in Galatians as walking in the Spirit versus doing the works of the flesh (Gal 5:13–26).

© 2013 Dennis Hamm SJ and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.