The Epistle to the Colossians reveals two kinds of truth. One kind of truth is not true, but most people think it’s true. The other truth is widely regarded as false, but in reality it is true.
The first truth dominates the local culture. People find it profitable and powerful. Promoted in the media, passed on through social networks, the first truth does a first-century version of going viral.
Most of first-century society rejected the second truth. They isolated it from mainstream discussion. Many thought it lacked the contemporary feel and focus of the first truth.
Colossians says the promoters of the first truth “delude you with beguiling speech,” that is, they use methods to convince people that their truth triumphs. In effect, those who listen become “prey.” Those who prompt the first truth “pass judgment” on those who reject it and, in effect “disqualify” those who believe it.
Colossians notes that the second truth prompts fruitful lives and growth. The second truth operates within a holistic worldview. This truth does not focus on one’s external image or fame but revitalizes one’s internal satisfaction and purpose.
At our distance from the time of the Colossians, we see that what they considered the first truth no longer exists in our world. In fact, even scholars can’t figure out the substance of what these “human traditions” and “elemental spirits of the universe” taught. The second truth, “the word of truth, the gospel” which bore fruit in the first-century world triumphed then, continued to prosper over the next twenty centuries, and finds adherents and success even today.
Throughout history, other “truths” took center stage, claimed to be truth, attracted wide followings, then passed away. In our own time, the conflict between the “truths” championed by the media, in the social networks, and by our culture at times seem to dominate.
However, Colossians addresses another issue aside from the conflict between competing truths. The congregations at Colosse and Laodicea apparently caved in to the first version of truth, thus prompting the writing of the Book of Colossians. The members of the congregation listened to the local media, agreed with what they heard in the social networks, and became adherents of the first truth. They substituted the artificial and passing for the real and permanent. They failed to distinguish what they heard at the marketplace from what they heard from God.
Parallels between their day and ours abound. One significant difference may be the persuasiveness of the contemporary culture’s beguiling us into accepting revised versions of truth and drawing us away from the real truth.
Contemporary versions of “human traditions” and “elemental spirits of the universe” infiltrate every corner of our society, including people within our congregations. Our response should mirror Paul’s. He prayed that these first-century congregations would “be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” and he pointed them to the Christ who ties all things together, saying, “Him we proclaim, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ.”
“See to it that no one makes a prey of you.”