J. K. Carter, Colossians and Church Branding
17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3The obvious struck me in church yesterday*: When Paul** addresses the church at Colossae, he addresses the whole body, not just individual believers. He calls the Colossians to put on the new self, reasoning as in Galatians 3, that they are different from the world with, "no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all."
To me it suggests that the call to do all "in the name of the Lord Jesus" isn't a call to personal piety, but rather a call to a community to identify as God's newly created people.
While false teachings pulled at the body in Colossae, Paul's antidote is to be united in Christ; to act and do things only in His name, not fragment into different competing bodies of ideology or practice. A word of caution - I don't believe this passage is trying to "erase the color lines." Paul is very aware of them in entirety of the letter. But he does serve to nullify the other identity claims surrounding them that would call them out of their unity-in-difference.
Colossians read corporately, not individualitsically, may judge our concern for church "branding." I am again trying to work out here what I've read in Carter's Race, A theological Account, a kind of follow up from the last post., while it's on the brain. Branding might actually be an idolatrous effort to engage the world on its own terms with a false identity instead of simply recalling the corporate identity of the Christ created, diverse community.
It's interesting because nonprofits and churches in the western US spend a lot of effort trying name themselves, market themselves, create an identify in the church marketplace, but it seems like the movements of God in people in other places that bubble up into our American awareness are always given "observed names", functional names, the kind of names a sociologist might use as a label, not a catchy brand. They don't seem, from my narrow vantage point, to be the claimed and marketed identities that we make but are instead identities that come from their practices.
*Thanks Tom Crisp for teaching!
**Is it Paul? Probably not, but Dunn intrigues my by suggesting it is very soon after, or perhaps with Paul's input given the chronology of the letter.
-edited for readability.