For followers of Jesus the Meaning of Life isn’t so much what, but who. How do we live a new life of meaning in light of who Jesus is?
A study on Colossians 3:1-17 for young adults from the Society of Salt and Light, in Christchurch.
A quick introduction to the week’s bible passages and theme, which aims to engage people in the big picture of God’s story, and the challenge of living faith in light of that.
Have you ever caught yourself – working on an essay or doing a monotonous task, or watching TV, or stuck at an intersection, or meeting a new niece or nephew – and suddenly wondering why this whole thing we do even happens at all? It often creeps up on us unexpectedly, like an annoying relative coming to visit you when you’re having an afternoon nap. And in those moments we have two choices; a) drown the nagging question out by turning up the radio, or b) being brave enough to really truly entertain the question, and begin to shape our lives around finding and living out the answer.
Sadly, nowadays more and more people seem to opt for option a. But as we explored in our study on “The Theory of Everything”, as it turns out, the Meaning of Life isn’t an answer at all – it’s a person. And while Christians seem to know Jesus is the safe answer to almost any church related question, we’re often as lost for words as the next schmuck when it comes to articulating “The Big Answer”.
At a Society of Salt & Light Summit, they explored three perspectives on what a Christian meaning of life could be. 1) To worship God & enjoy Him forever. 2) To become all God hopes I’ll become. And 3) To be an instrument of redemption in God’s creation. It’s not that one is necessarily right and the other two are wrong – but that sometimes we need a different “lens” or “emphasis” to totally get the whole picture of what God is up to in the world.
But discovering the answer to the Meaning of Life is only the beginning. Because as soon as we discover the Meaning of Life is a person, this same person calls us to now live a meaningful life. And our passage in Colossians gives us some insights into what it looks like to live this meaningful life.
How do we make sense of these different “lenses” when it comes to understanding our place and role in God’s universe. And what needs to change with each of us to live a truly meaningful new life in light of who God is and His agenda for His creation?
For the Scholars
Discussion questions focusing on exploring the bible passage.
1. You are sitting in front of a church on the grass having a laugh with some friends. Then a black hearse pulls up outside the church. How does the meaning of that hearse change the way you act?
2. Can you think of other times the meaning of something changes the way you act?
Read Colossians 3:1-4
3. Paul thinks a certain reality gives our life meaning and direction. What (or who) is that reality, and why is he so reality defining for us?
Read Colossians 3:5-14
4. Paul has said that we died (like Jesus) and are now raised with Him. He now tells us how to live in line with this. So what does he say we need to:
- put to death/get rid of, since our old self has died (vs 5-10)
- put on instead as a new person in Christ (vs 11-14)
(Leaders: you may want to get two groups to done of these sections each, and report back)
These put-off/put-on commands seem to have a lot to do with how we treat other people. How does this tie in with meaning of life being a person?
6. Paul has talked about ‘things above’ vs ‘earthly things’ in verses 1-4 – but what is the realm he is telling us to live this reality out in? What does that show about understanding the real meaning of things and how it affects life here and now?
7. So what particular things do you think you need to put off, or put on? What particularly resonated with you in this list?
FOR THE DREAMERS
Discussion questions focusing on mulling over the theme.
1. You are sitting in front of a church on the grass having a laugh with some friends. Then a black hearse pulls up outside the church. How does the meaning of that hearse change the way you act? Can you think of other times the meaning of something changes the way you act?
2. In The Story above, we were presented with three possible understandings of the Christian meaning of life. Which resonates most with you & why? What would it mean for you to personally live as if that meaning was your primary driving force of life? Can you find hints towards any of these in our Colossians passage?
3. God has created us in such a way that at some stages in our lives we require a new perspective on who He is and how we are to life – what some people call “Dry Times”. Watch Alan Jamieson’s video ‘Dry Times‘ (on the Society of Salt & Light’s Youtube Channel) for his thoughts on this. What if each of these three perspectives were “lenses” or “approaches” towards the whole picture of what the Meaning of Life is? How do these three understandings support each other? How do they critique or challenge each other?
4. Knowing the Meaning of Life doesn’t mean much if you don’t pursue it. In our passage in Colossians Paul moves us on from the Theory of Everything of our last study onto what it means in real terms to actually live out this meaning. The idea being to get rid of things from our old self, and put on instead new things as a new person in Christ. What particular things do you think you need to put off, or put on? What particularly resonated with you in this list?
5. When Paul talks of the great “things above” vs the nasty “earthly things” we do, it’s easy to get the impression that God doesn’t like what we do on earth – but read a little deeper. What is the realm Paul is telling us to live this reality out in? How does that impact our understanding of the real meaning of “things” and how it affects life here & now?
6. Verse 15 says for the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts. What does that mean for followers of Jesus in light of the anxiety human beings can experience when searching for the meaning of life and being unsure of the answer? How are your current “peace levels” with Christ in your heart?
7. The idea of happiness is normally pretty closely tied to the Meaning of Life – but what we mean by happiness can be wildly different. (E.g. Western Consumer happiness – owning what you desire. Buddhist happiness – contentment by not desiring anything. Teenage happiness – no pimples & a ticket to One Direction.) In light of all we’ve looked at, what do you think the definition of Christian happiness is?
FOR THE REALISTS
Possibilities for on topic testimonials, sharing and story telling.
Changing Lenses: Ask someone slightly older from your church to talk for 5 minutes about how their perspective on the meaning of life has changed as they’ve gotten older. What did they think was the most important thing when they were in their twenties, thirties, forties, and now? What experiences or events shifted their perspective over that time?
FOR THE ACTIVISTS
Activities and adventures beyond the couch.
Service Goal Setting: If the Meaning of Life is actually about living out our lives as our “new selves”, as Colossians hinted at, then it makes sense that our churches and community groups would be active together in living out the Good News in the world. Spend a good session planning what your group will do for other people outside your church this year, and how that lines us with your group’s passions and interests (the start of the year is a great time to do this). Get some rhythms of service locked in before essays, exams and work commitments take over.