"For though I am absent in body,
yet I am with you in spirit,
rejoicing to see your good order
and the firmness of your faith in Christ."
A quick observation about this passage. Throughout Paul's letter to the Colossians, he expresses his deep pastoral concern for them. Earlier in the chapter Paul mentions how he has gladly suffered for the sake of the Colossians and how he struggles for them. He even says he struggles and suffers for those whom he has never even met! He is deeply connected to these people. Looking at the verse at hand, we again see Paul's deep connectedness to his people. Even though he is not there physically, his heart and thoughts are with them. He is with them in spirit.
I bring this up because we live in a culture where most people are often absent both physically and in spirit. In this digital era, our attention is more likely to be grasped by a screen than by people. Even when we are with people physically, we really aren't 'all there'. We might be with people, but our spirit is absent. We are with our cell phones, and laptops, and TV's. Our 'physical' presence is more likely to take the form of text messaging, or facebook than it is a deep spiritual connectedness. Even when Paul wasn't physically there, he was still deeply connected in spirit. In our culture, we lack to be present in both. We lack physical presence in each others lives. Parents get divorced. Kid's don't spend time with their families. People spend more time watching TV than connecting with people. Everything is privatized. And like I said, even when we are 'with people' half the time we are usually texting someone else who isn't even there. We are absent both physically and spiritually. We are all guilty of this.
So how do we get back to this deep connectedness that Paul seemed to have? It all starts with the Gospel. The Gospel gives us a deep connectedness to God. In turn, we then will have a deeper connectedness to people, because we are united in Christ. The Gospel unites us as believers as we share in the same Spirit. Also, the Gospel gives us the only real motivation to reach out and connect and love people in a deep way, the way in which Paul did. The motivation is this. When we were disconnected, Christ reached out in the ultimate way to re-connect us to the Father. The Son reached out by coming to earth, taking on human flesh, living the perfect life, dying the death that we deserved for our disconnection, and then resurrected, so that our original connectedness that we had in the beginning (Adam and Eve) can be restored. When we were far off and disconnected, God died for us to connect us. To bring us back in. That is beautiful. That is why the Gospel transforms community in a radical way. That is why the Apostle Paul has such a deep connectedness to the Colossians. This verse is an encouragement for me to pursue real relationships. To be deeply connected to people, not facebook. Legitimate connection is found and motivated only in the Gospel. In the words of Jim Elliot,
"Where ever you are, be all there"