He knew English from textbooks when he got here as an exchange student, but his first exposure to how English was actually spoken was in my college fraternity house. It was startling but not surprising, therefore, when he was invited to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner and asked for someone to pass him the @#$%*^ potatoes. After a moment of shocked silence, the friend’s mother said, “Well, you heard him, pass the @#$%*^ potatoes!”
If you don’t know the slang expressions and idioms, you can easily get the wrong idea. Why do we say, “What’s up?” Here is some potential confusion from Paul’s letter to the Colossians:
” Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” (Colossians 1:24, NIV)
Huh? Christ didn’t quite suffer enough? Paul had to help Him out? No. Jesus did everything necessary to completely and permanently pay for all the sins of anyone who is willing to accept His gift. He has prepaid for you to receive complete forgiveness forever. So why did Paul say there was something lacking in His suffering? He used a common idiom to say, “I’m glad to do whatever is necessary to help the church, even if it means I will suffer for it like Jesus did.”
Jesus delegated the work of spreading His good news to His followers, who had discovered personally how wonderful it is. He knew the assignment would come with suffering. For whatever reason, people frequently get angry when you tell them about Jesus. Go figure. That’s why Jesus prayed for His followers, saying:
“I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (John 17:4 – His atoning sacrifice was complete.)
“I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” (John 17:14 – They would suffer)
“As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18 – Nevertheless, the plan is for them to tell people about Jesus)
Paul understood these realities, and that followers of Jesus would be witnesses to Him. His attitude was, “Whatever it takes, I’m glad to do it.” But it wasn’t that Paul was a masochist. It was how amazing the message was, and how cool it was to see people catch on. There is something about Jesus that most people have missed, something mind-blowing! Knowing that, whatever it takes, even suffering, was worth it. But what is that nugget? What part of the message made it so worthwhile?
Stay tuned; we’ll get to that next time.