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Saturday, August 17, 2013

We Are Family

FamilyEpaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. Col 4:12

Colossians chapter 4 is one of those passages which it is easy to skim over without much thought. At first sight it's just a list of people Paul knows and has no relevance to us.

But think about this: they were all part of a close-knit fellowship. They are mentioned because they are real people who lived out their Christian lives with one another.

Now consider your own group of Christian friends, those members of your church or home group who meet together regularly and enjoy one another's company. These are the people you share your joys and sorrows with, the ones who pray for you and for whom you pray. They are as close, perhaps closer, than some of your blood ties. They are part of your family in Christ.

You may not be particularly overt in your expression of it, but you love these people.

This little collection of people in Colossians 4 were like that. Yet they were certainly even closer because of what they had been through. Don't forget, Paul was in prison as he wrote, along with Aristarchus. That kind of experience draws people together. Paul also mentions his traveling companion, Luke. We know from Acts that they had been through many joys and trials together.

But I want to draw our attention to Epaphras. This is what Paul says about him in the first part of the letter:

our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. (Col 1:7-8)

Clearly Paul held him in great affection, respected his ministry and valued him as an envoy. Epaphras had gone to Rome and taken news to Paul of the state of the Colossian church. But Epaphras' heart was still in Colossae. Perhaps he was in leadership there and was concerned about his people while he was absent. It wasn't as though he could pick up the phone and check how things were going.

Epaphras' prayer life was something to aspire to:

He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you. (Col 4:12-13)

That word wrestling challenges me. It reminds me of Jacob in Genesis 32 and Abraham in Genesis 18. It makes me ask, "Do I put that much effort into praying for those I care about?"

And there doesn't seem to have been a particularly pressing need. Perhaps we might pray like that if a loved one was seriously ill or in other desperate circumstances. But do we pray with passion that our Christian friends will grow into full maturity in Christ? Do we recognise, as Paul did, that this kind of prayer is work, and that it genuinely matters and makes a difference?

How encouraging it must have been to the people back home to hear that their friend, even though he was 1200 miles away, was doing all he could for them to keep them strong in the faith.

Will you be an Epaphras to your Christian family?

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