Paul’s letter to the Colossians was where the Bible opened itself for me to read this morning, and so I read the entire book, as I’m used to doing. Usually, I read the Jerusalem Bible, as that is the version that brought me to Christ, and I’ve never given it up. Today, however, I picked up the New English Bible, which is the other version I started reading during my college days, and for which I’ve never lost my respect—to me it still represents a fairly high literary standard—because I like to vary the versions to gain new insights. Colossians has always been one of my favorite books.
I pray while I read, and I involuntarily review many λογισμοι (logismí > Greek, “thoughts”) going through my mind, all at the same time, comparing them to what the word is saying. I am struggling, now as always, with the visible form of the Church, and with the institutional strictures, what I call “religious profiling,” that throw obstacles in the path of faithful Christians, and keep others in decadent captivity. This passage spoke to my struggles.
You are not to be disqualified by the decision of people who go in for self-mortification and angel-worship, and try to enter into some vision of their own. Such people, bursting with the futile conceit of worldly minds, lose hold upon the Head; yet it is from the Head that the whole body, with all its joints and ligaments, receives its supplies, and thus knit together grows according to God’s design.
Did you not die with Christ and pass beyond reach of the elemental spirits of the universe? Then why behave as though you were still living the life of the world? Why let people dictate to you: ‘Do not handle this, do not taste that, do not touch the other’—all of them things that must perish as soon as they are used? That is to follow merely human injunctions and teaching. True, it has an air of wisdom, with its forced piety, its self-mortification, and its severity to the body; but it is of no use at all in combatting sensuality.
Colossians 2:18-23 New English Bible