Some things just divide people. In 2015 people found themselves divided into two groups. Nations into two camps. Married couples had disagreements over it. Friends took sides because of it. I hate to bring it back up because it will do the same with you. You will have to decide which side you will be on and I hate to be divisive. But I’m going to anyway.
Remember “the dress.” (to see click here) Along with the dress came the big divisive question: is it black and blue or white and gold? People fell on one side or the other. Some switched sides in the same day.
Taylor Swift Tweeted: “I don’t understand this odd dress debate and I feel like it’s a trick somehow. I’m confused and scared. PS it’s OBVIOUSLY BLUE AND BLACK.
Kim Kardashian West Tweeted: What color is that dress? I see white & gold. Kanye sees black & blue, who is color blind?
And the recently engaged Biebs Tweeted: and for everyone asking, I see blue & black.
But clearly the dress is white and gold.
Some things divide people that are not that important. Like the dress. And some things divide people that are really important. Like Jesus. He said:
Do you think that I came here to bring peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on, five in one household will be divided: three against two, and two against three. They will be divided, father against son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. (Luke 12:51-53)
Jesus is the Prince of Peace, but brings division because not everyone believes he is the Christ, the Son of God. Just throw the topic of Jesus out at the next dinner party you are having in your eclectic neighborhood and see what happens.
Your Muslim friend says she believes Jesus is one of five great messengers. He is a prophet like Abraham and Moses but a lesser prophet than Muhammad.
Your Jehovah Witness neighbor believes that Jesus was Michael the archangel prior to his coming to earth. Jesus is God’s first creation and then everything else was created through Jesus. Jesus is separate from God and not a part of a Trinity.
Your Mormon friend says she believes that God is literally the father of Jesus Christ. Jesus had a mortal mother and an immortal father. Jesus is the literal offspring of God in the flesh. Jesus is just one of many “sons of God” and is referred to specifically as “a son of God” in the Book of Mormon (Alma 36:17).
Still others will say he was merely a great teacher.
Jesus has always stirred up a lot of questions about who he is. When he asked his disciples who the people of his day said he was they answered, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, one of the prophets” (Mark 8:28). Divided ideas over Jesus’ identity is nothing new.
It even shook up the church at Colossae. When that church was being taught erroneous ideas about Jesus, Paul wanted to help them see him clearly so that they could stand firm in their faith. And he does so through a song. It’s a song about Jesus and tells of his relationship to God, creation and the church.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and by him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile everything to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Paul tells us three things about Jesus in this hymn. First, he tells us that Jesus is God. He writes that he is “the image of the invisible God.” The Greek word for “image” is eikon from which we get our word icon. An icon is something that can be seen. God is the “invisible” God. But Jesus, as the image or icon, makes the God we cannot see seeable. (v. 15).
That’s important on many levels. For one, it echoes the teaching of Genesis 1:27 that God created humankind in his “image.” There is something about humans, made in the image of God, in which we were made to represent God. But we failed in the Garden and still do. But Jesus came as “the” image of God and represented him as he is. Perfectly.
Secondly, it’s important to know that when we see Jesus, we see God. We don’t see a prophet. We don’t see an angel. We don’t see a literal son. We see God. When we want to know what God, who we can’t see, is like, we look at Jesus. When we want to know what God, who we can’t see, thinks, we look at Jesus. When we want to know how God, who we can’t see, would receive us, we look at Jesus. Jesus is the eikon of God, making visible what is invisible.
But that’s not all. Jesus does not just “represent” God in the sense that he stands in for God. He “is” God. For example, when I served on the City Council, one year I also served as Mayor Pro Tem. When the Mayor was out of town or unable to attend an event or make a presentation, I would go in her place. I represented the Mayor, but I was not the Mayor.
Jesus was not a “Pro Tem” type of representation for God. When Paul says Jesus is the image of God he adds that God “was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.” Not just some of God’s fullness. Not just some wisdom, some spirit, some of his word, some glory. All of God is in Jesus. All of his divine essence and power “became flesh” in Jesus.
When others teach that there is some other wisdom you can find in addition to Jesus, Colossians assures you that you need only Jesus. Period. There is no secret wisdom or special knowledge that you need to find. You just need Jesus. Jesus is God in all his fullness.
And Jesus is Creator, not Created. He is “…the firstborn over all creation. For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through him and for him.” Paul is clear: Jesus is not a created being but himself created everything.
Some have taken the word “firstborn” to mean that Jesus was the first created being and once created, he then created everything else, which would make him equal to creation. But Paul does not allow that when he adds that “everything was created by him.” Simple reasoning tells us that if “everything” was created by him, Jesus is not creation but instead is the Creator of the created.
In addition to this line of reasoning, if Paul had wanted to say that Jesus was the first created being, he had another Greek word he could have chosen: proto-ktizo. But He did not use that word. He chose another word: proto-tokos or “firstborn.” Out of context you could take this to mean the first in a family of things. My brother was the firstborn of the two children my parents had. They knew they could do better so they decided to have another child. Me. Then they stopped with perfection.
Firstborn here is not talking about birth order, however. Firstborn carries with it the sense of priority and status and rank. Jesus is supreme over all “thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities.” There are no other forces you and I have to be concerned about. Jesus is supreme over any that exist.
Learn the song and its verses and you will know who Jesus is—your Creator. And you will know who you are—a created being. Only then can we begin to understand our place in this world.
So Jesus is God. And Jesus is Creator. Then we learn that Jesus is the head of the church. Paul writes clearly: “He is also the head of the body, the church.” In the Roman Empire, the state was at times envisioned as a body in which all of its parts worked together for the common good. Paul takes this idea and adapts it to the church.
In doing so he reminds us that we are a body that does work together but we work under the head, that is Christ. It is Jesus who brought us together. He “reconciled everything to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” “Reconcile” means to “bring back a former state of harmony.”
Jesus divides. But he also brings harmony and peace through his death on the cross. That’s how we have come to be the church. The language of reconciliation comes from the arena of political negotiation. Parties that are hostile to each other have been brought back together. Paul says this happened cosmically—“things in heaven”—and between us and God and each other—“things on earth.”
That’s important to remember when some teaching or someone tries to divide a church. In the case of the Colossians, it was the false teaching that there was more needed than Jesus. Whenever that happens, or whenever something comes between you and another person in the body, turn to Jesus. He’s the head. He is the one who “holds all things together.” When we sense the body coming apart, we need to bring ourselves together under his authority. When that happens, peace happens.
Peace is needed when divisiveness arises. Divisiveness can happen in churches when we want to have a special feeling, a new expression, or the next “wow” factor. We come by it honestly in a big flashy world. The “new and improved” gets all the attention. Something different gets noticed. The trendy becomes appealing to us.
Jesus can start to seem old and outdated.
But you don’t need anything new. You need Jesus. And you have to make up your mind about who he is. Paul says he is God, the Creator, and the head of the church. He either is or he is not. There is no other option.
Some create another option. A good teacher. A prophet. A literal son of God among many. Jesus doesn’t allow that. He is either God or a gimmick. He is either Creator or crazy. He is either head of the church of which we are a part or just hype and not worthy of our time.
Whatever you do, don’t put him in the same basket as Moses, Elijah, Muhammed, or Joseph Smith. Jesus did not leave that option. You have to decide who Jesus is.
It might help to ask someone like Paul who had inside information and take another look at Jesus.
That’s what people did with the dress. The dress is from the British retailer Roman Originals, and the photo on the store’s website makes it very obvious that the dress is, in fact, blue and black. (to see click here)
If you’ve only thought of Jesus as something other than God and Creator and Head of the church, why not take another look at him. You may see what you did not see before.
 Marianne Meye Thompson, Colossians & Philemon, p. 32.