Enter the the mighty garden gnome, lord of ornamental grass and tulips. You needn’t fear moles or marauding slugs. Rest easy, knowing that something blocks the path of careless kids with lawnmowers. Garden gnome says, “You shall not pass!” therefore the geraniums and lilac clusters are safe.
For any problems larger than the patch of garden under your front window though, the gnome isn’t so mighty. He’s only a decorative ceramic. Introduce social ills or global crises, and the little statuette assigned to be “keeper of the garden” vanishes into insignificance.
I wonder if we habitually think of Jesus like that gnome.
What picture governs your thought about Christ? If it’s the bearded figure from an illustrated children’s Bible, then let me respectfully say you may not go far on the strength of that image alone.
Even with an optimistic outlook, we all know that statistically speaking, we’re going to experience broken hearts, financial pressures, marital friction, failing health, and finally, end of life scenarios. When the Greyhound bus of trouble finally gets on a collision course with us, a gnome-like Jesus will seem laughable.
I can always tell when people have only entrusted Christ with the gladiolas. In the face of larger concerns they write him off as useless. What’s a sentimental religious ornament going to do about this?
Life is headed our way. Let’s entrust our future to a Jesus who is bigger than an aircraft carrier. According to the Apostle Paul, that is exactly the kind of Christ into whom we’ve been transferred.
Jesus was a historical figure, a Jewish man who lived in the Middle East two thousand years ago. And more. So much more. It took the penetrating insight of apostolic revelation to make clear just how profound this figure was and is today.
Yes, Jesus can fit inside of story-book Bibles. He loves for children to hear about Him. But the Christ you need (and thankfully have available) is too big to fit on a Sunday school flannel board.
One of the densest and richest portrayals of Christ in the New Testament can be found in Colossians 1:15-20. Consider the grandeur of the Apostle Paul’s description:
He is the image of the invisible God.
Without Christ, God is invisible, up for grabs, subject to interpretation according to sinful, ill-informed imaginations. God ends up reduced to doll-like dimensions, planted in somebody’s personal terrarium. Under those circumstances, negative things appear larger than they are. The devil instantly seems bigger than God.
But in Christ we have the complete and accurate expression of God. When sin shows up with all its ugliness, Christ stands over against it as the full picture of God’s holiness. When life becomes pointless and mundane, Christ exhibits all the awesomeness and wonder of God’s glory. When injustice laughs, boasting that it will never be penalized, Christ stands, full of the righteousness of God, and terrible in wrath. As “the love of the many grow cold” (c.f. Matt. 24:12), Christ radiates the warmth of God’s love, a reality that cannot be quenched.
And we’ve only gotten started. Read your Bible for more.
He is the Firstborn of all creation.
His position—first—indicates He is preferred and blessed above everything else that exists. Why? Because all things were created by Him (as the active agent), through Him (as the instrument), and for Him (as the very reason for its creation). Furthermore, all things hold together in him (keeping the physical order from collapsing into chaos).
As the designer, the engineer, the instrument, and the very glue of our universe, it’s safe to say He needs a central spot in our lives. He belongs first. When He’s not, it’s weird. It would be like hiring Bruce Lee to attend a martial arts exhibition and then posting him in the garden, where he was to keep the rabbits away from the petunias. What a waste that would be.
Don’t be guilty of the same type of misappropriation. Since Christ is first, Christ goes first.
He is the Head of the body, the church
As Head of the universal church, Jesus Christ is our source of spiritual life as well as our authority. Every time in history when the church wandered away from Him, it suffered. You’ve heard the old phrase “Like a chicken with its head cut off.” Few things in nature are meant to run around without a head. Christians are no different.
Jesus was the first to die and return on a new plane with a life that can never die again. When we take Him as Head, life flows as it should. Things align.
Christ is preeminent, supreme. Ultimately, all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell in Him. Any truth, teaching, belief, or experience should be evaluated according to Christ as the standard because (please remember), all the fullness of God is in Him. That is why he is primary in our salvation. When God moved to reconcile the universe back to Himself, the Son held the central place in that activity.
At the end of this passage, having surveyed such a vast Christ, the apostle nearly begs his readers to continue in the faith, and not to shift into some other, lower gear. Christ was never meant to be a slice of life, but the One who overlays the whole.
We’re not being asked to give Him a larger chunk of our weekly schedule, but to live all the varied segments of our lives within Him. In light of the fact that he is preeminent over all things, doing this doesn’t make us heroes, just reasonable.
Leave garden duties to the gnome.
Photo credit: Eric Yuen