Suppose you drive up to the preschool to pick up your grandchild. There are twenty or thirty little ones standing out front, and a teacher is monitoring the group. When you stop to get your grandchild, the teacher takes one child at random and places her in the backseat of your car. You protest that this child is not yours. In response the teacher shrugs off your comment and says, “kids are kids; one’s as good as another.”
We would be horrified to hear a teacher talk this way. Of course, in many ways kids look the same, but there is an infinite difference between my grandchild and another child chosen at random.
How is it that we know the critical importance of recognizing our true grandchild, but when it comes to religion, we buy easily into the statement, “religions are pretty much the same; one is as good as another?” We have accepted a strange kind of tolerance that leads us to surrender what is true—what is ours. St. Paul called this way of thinking an “empty, seductive philosophy.”
He warns the Colossians about getting seduced into a wrong way of thinking and watering down their understanding of Christ (Colossians 2:6-15).
“See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to the tradition of men, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ.”
Philosophies and religions abound. They are contrived by the thinking of men– based on human ideas. Christianity is not a philosophy or religion that some guru, named Jesus Christ, came up with. It is the truth that came, not from the minds of men, but was revealed by God himself. There is as much difference between revealed truth and human philosophy as there is between your grandchild and another random child in front of the preschool.
To emphasize his point, Paul reminded this people who Jesus really is. He is not just a religious leader among other religious leaders.
“For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily, and you share in this fullness in him, who is the head of every principality and power.”
There is no other human being who has the “fullness” of God in him or her. There is no mere human being who rules over the angelic principalities and powers that govern the universe. Comparing any other religious leader or philosophy to Jesus Christ is like comparing a drop of water to the Pacific Ocean. How is it that we are so easily seduced by empty ideas and opinions?
The truth of Christ is not just something that we learned in a theology class. It is something that has actually happened to us.
“In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. You were buried with him in baptism in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God…he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions…”
We were stripped of our natural selves, drowned in the water of baptism, and wiped clean of sin which held us in eternal bondage. Could we forget an experience in which we were stripped, drowned, and then resuscitated and set free? Our faith is not just a set of ideas that we studied in school; it is born of a life-changing transformation that no empty philosophy has the power to accomplish.
Jesus does not stand side by side with a variety of religions and philosophies, offering us a choice. He has conquered and exposed all of these making a prisoner of the ruling spirits that create such “alternatives.”
“…despoiling the principalities and the powers, he made a public spectacle of them, leading them away in triumph by it (the cross).”
Paul exhorts us to stay rooted in Christ Jesus the Lord, to walk in him, and to be established in the faith we were taught, “abounding in thanksgiving.”
We would not, through carelessness, want to give up one of our children or grandchildren. So, also, we go to extremes to make sure we do not let someone put some empty philosophy into the “backseats” of our minds. When we value what we have, we never stop thanking God for it.
“I chose you from the world, that you may go and bear fruit that will last” (John 15:16).