Every Tuesday morning, I sit in a circle of other pastors and discuss and debate (and sometimes yell and point) the Bible for our weekly sermon. We call it the Teaching Pool, a fancier name than “study circle.” Still, for the last four years or more, this same group of 10 or so has taught chapter by chapter through the Bible, crafting our sermons together and challenging each other.
So this week, I was the one challenged. We’re teaching through Colossians and I had studied in advance for our meeting, ready to point out the tremendous insights I had already gleaned from the text. I was discussing one of these finer points, when my friend pointed out something in the Greek text which changed everything: “That you is actually plural.”
That simple five word statement changed quite a bit about what I was espousing on. My basic point: That Jesus was the fullness of God (the deity in Col. 2) and we are the fullness of Christ. I was going on and on about the value of each of us to be the fullness of Christ on earth, which is certainly true to a point. But then he said that statement. “That you is actually plural.” I sat down and shut up.
Pretty soon, the theological beach ball was being tossed around by others and I didn’t want to play. What did that mean? If the you is plural, that changes a lot. I grew up with every Steven Curtis Chapman CD on repeat for a few years. “Treasure of You” is a familiar song in which he sings to his daughter of her tremendous worth in the sight of God; how she is the said “treasure.” And of course there is beautiful truth in this – that we are the pearl of great price. That each and every one of us can be redeemed, loved, adored . . . treasured.
“That you is actually plural.”
That phrase doesn’t shatter my “Treasure of You” theology but it sure puts a different spin on it. At the very least, it adds a lot more depth. I, alone, am not the fulness of Christ. And God isn’t just coming back for me. Now, we can split theological hairs on this one, but hang with me. We, together, are the fullness of Christ. We, together, are the bride of Christ. With that one statement, the slow realization that it takes all of us together to be who we are meant to be crept in.
My friend Andrew said it best: “It takes all of us united together living now and all who came before us in ages past and in ages to come to equal the fulness exhibited by Jesus Christ on earth.” Now that can sound depressing almost in its scope, but I think the opposite is true. There is hope for us to be everything the Bible says that we are (and that we never seem to be able to attain), and that hope is found in each other. I need you. And you need me. And we need others. When I am united with you in love, when we are in One spirit in what we say and do, when we are connected in common mission–that’s when the body of Christ comes alive and we are the treasure, we are the Bride, we are truly the hope of the world.
There’s a chasm known as individualism in our Western Christian circles. It’s the “every head bowed and every eye closed” mentality as God and I try to do this spiritual walk the best that I can. You may help teach me some things and you might listen if I ask you to, but overall it’s all about my own personal walk with God. And letting you in on it is a luxury, a privilege–not a right. But my value is not found in my own self, my own abilities or gifts, my own righteousness. I am ugly enough apart from God and even with God, I’m not that great without you.
Somehow we become beautiful when we open our lives to each other, sharing life, giving life.
“That you is actually plural.”
And that’s actually great news–that, as Derek Webb once sang, “For the sake of the world, I thank the Lord that the truth’s not dependent on me.”
Matt Conner is a freelance writer and music journalist. As the founding pastor of The Mercy House, he led a church community for more than six years in intense community development across racial and socio-economic lines. As a writer, he’s interviewed thousands of musicians for multiple print and web-based publications.