Colossians 1:24 ff. and Marriage

Coloss. 1:24. What a strange report this is from the Apostle Paul—as if Christ’s sufferings wasn’t sufficient on our behalf! and that he, Paul, is glad to supplement what’s lacking in it. Such self-aggrandizement! But is it that? For in his offering up his own suffering “on-behalf-of” Christ’s Body in the world, Paul is opening up another dimension of our life in Christ. He’s recognizing our vital connection to each other whether we like it or not.
Surely there’s no lack in Jesus’ suffering . . . . Vertically— between us and God—he has accomplished everything needed to undo the estrangement.
But there’s apparently a severe lacking in another important dimension: the horizontal—the human level amongst us of the Body of Christ. As to our “suffering”, it’s not necessarily persecution Paul has in mind—though, that too may come in its own time. But the lacking, the constant place of incompleteness, is with ourselves who strategically represent the Name of Christ to the world.
So, there is the constant challenge to mature us as a Kingdom people, to shape us, grow us up—for the distinctiveness (“holiness”) that sets us apart. And with it goes a suffering that contributes to the building up of Christ’s Body on this earth.
There are all the little afflictions of learning to live together as Kingdom brothers and sisters on earth. In marriage, in mission community and work teams—there is the pain that comes of living closely, of abiding each other’s oddities; the pain of loving deeply and faithfully; and of receiving the wounds that only someone so close and so loved can wield, of sticking with each other through the resultant stress and frustration.
All those lacks—as with Paul’s offering up the multitude of grievances he put up with, the physical hardships and the anguish for the sake of his churches—all call from us “an offering of suffering”.
In marriages, there is lots of pain (as well as its obvious joy) from all kinds of offenses, big and little—cumulative offense.
But Christians are running from the pain, almost at a greater rate (says BARNA) than our secular counterparts. It’s as though we don’t know about the “dying in order to live”, and the Biblical call to “live on-behalf-of one another”. That’s not in the marriage preparation, and it’s not in our expectations. But we’re meant to learn not only to forgive, to forbear, and let go of stuff. We’re to learn—as Catholics have learned to say (and some of them, to do): “Offer it up to God”.
We, in our marriages and families and church life, are somehow to offer up our “afflictions”, knowing that as we do so, it’s received on-behalf-of the building up of Christ’s beloved Kingdom-People on the earth.
Often, little separations—respites—are necessary in a marriage (and I mean beyond the obvious getting away from physical abuse). Those times are important, primarily to get relief when the stress gets too overwhelming, as well as to gain some perspective in a situation. They re important moreso as time to figure out our own fault in the situation, and also to come to believe the Word so as to learn to do as Paul was learning to do—on-behalf-of the People of God at large.
Coloss. 1:26 -28. There’s a mystery meant to be revealed through us in all this. A glory. “The hope” of glory is meant to be seen in us, and seen in our life together. Judeo-Christian marriage is like the dam for a beautiful reservoir. It is the sustaining wall for His ordering of FAMILY. It is there as reflection pool for the breadth and width and depth of God’s faithful love, reflecting His own self-giving Love, wooing and winning at great cost the love of His beloved.
Evangelical Christians have sadly become major breaks in the wall, allowing the reservoir to go crashing into the canyon below. A lovely falls maybe—wild, dramatic, and spectacular to exclaim over—but leaving a dry and desolate waste, where was meant to be a thing of beauty and glory to its Creator.
Each of us has the ongoing decision to make—in our marriage, and in our work teams—as to whether “it’s all about us, and how bad we feel, how much we hurt”; or whether we can trust God to use even OUR pain as we deliberately trustingly offer it, to build the beauty and reality of His Body in the world, reflection here of His Glory.