In preparing for this year’s studies in Colossians, I was reading the recommended Mark Meynell book, ‘Colossians and Philemon For You’. In the opening pages the author describes Paul’s claims about Jesus as truly ‘outrageous’. I read it and thought how jarring that was with my Sunday experience of God. I’ve gone to church all my life, surrounded by people who love singing praises to him and learning more about him. We are comfortable, unshocked and perfectly happy. Surely nothing about Jesus is that outrageous?
Then I began to think. How much do I limit God by my comfortable familiarity? Why does the truth about Jesus not blow my mind on a more regular basis? Paul’s claims about Jesus in chapter one of Colossians are big. He is the ‘firstborn over all creation’, the sustainer of everything – God himself. If I was as brave as I should be and told my non-Christian friends exactly what I believe about Jesus, they would be straight-out shocked. Jesus is that cute baby on Christmas cards, right? Yes, and he’s also the cosmic-creating, terrifyingly powerful, fearless ultimate hero who gave his life for me.
You may not know this about me but I love fantasy. Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter (and many less well-known novels that I can recommend!). I like big; I like unbelievable – I like high concept fantasies where the incredible happens. Dragons fly, magic is real, one person can save the whole universe. Show me a crime drama, or a soap and I’m not interested. I don’t want to see something that could be happening down the road from me – I want my imagination to soar.
I know I’m not the only one. The success of superhero movies alone show that people have a longing for the incredible. Critics would call it wish-fulfilment; I’d call it our hearts crying out for something more: the inbuilt belief that there is a real superhero out there who really has saved us.
I was never quite sure why fantasy was so appealing to me until I read a quote from Tolkein. He said that myths and fantasies are ‘echoes or memories of the truths that God had originally made known to Adam and Eve’ and that the gospel is ‘the true myth, the great fairy story in which all the elements of the pagan myths find their fulfilment.’
Suddenly it clicked. I like ‘big stories’ because I am part of a big story; the greatest story ever told. I want more because I am built for more. I dream of an incredible land where the unbelievable happens because that is where I am headed; because a God – the one true God – sacrificed himself for me in a cosmic spiritual battle which he won.
Jesus is counter-cultural. He is not comfortable – in fact, he’s pretty unbelievable, and I’m glad of that. I don’t want to stake my life on something small. But there’s also a huge challenge in that. As Mark Meynell says, ‘If Jesus really is the cosmic Lord, then how can we not dedicate every fibre of our being to him and his service?’
‘The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together.’
Colossians Chapter 1 v 15-17