Excerpted from The Supreme Tao of Jesus: A Commentary on Colossians


The names of the people at the end of Colossians are the names of heroes.

Paul describes Tychicus as being much-loved and Onesimus (the escaped-slave turned Christ-follower about whom Paul’s letter to Philemon was written) as being faithful; Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus were great companions and the only Jewish coworkers Paul has in his ministry; Epaphras – the pastor of the Colossian church – is held up as an example of prayer and confident leadership; Luke and Demas are warmly included as members of the community; and Nympha is mentioned by name (a particular honor for females in that day and age) as someone with whom the Colossians are encouraged to cultivate a relationship and learn from all that she’s doing.
If I were to write a letter to my former church back home, I might conclude that letter by telling everyone:
that Jvo and the rest of the Westwinds’ staff send their greetings– and that he and Ben are the only Baptists who will still return my calls; I might thank them for loaning us Vince McLaren for a week to help us out with our podcasting ministry and teach Jay Cordova how to manage our tech set up; I might also pass along that Andy Ladwig and Brad Kimpell– who some of my friends have met over lunch or during a card game– say hi; and that they should be in prayer for our friend Kirk– who used to be in full time ministry but had a bad experience that may have left him out-of-play.
Of course, what Paul does is a little more significant than that. He’s not merely re-introducing old friends, he’s also making some introductions for the very first time and thereby giving some credibility and honor to
those named in the letter.
The people Paul mentions are notable Christians who were instrumental in the spread of the Gospel. For instance:
Aristarchus was thrown in jail for preaching about Jesus.
Mark and Luke each wrote a Gospel (Mark’s Gospel is largely based on Peter’s stories and recollections of Jesus, so Mark was also important because he was personally connected to one of the original disciples).
Mark, Aristarchus, and Justus were Jewish converts who had successfully managed to sidestep all the heresy and weirdness other Jewish converts were trying to push onto the church– so they were good examples of what it looks like to completely forsake your former religion for faith in Christ.
Epaphras was the Colossians’ own pastor who had joined the big leagues of those traveling and preaching the Way of Jesus in new places.
Nympha was a courageous heroine who risked her personal security to start and host a church.
Heroes all.
Perhaps because we’re afraid of putting people on a pedestal, we Christians don’t do a very good job of honoring those among us who have given much, or accomplished much, for Christ and his kingdom.
We should remedy that.
Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.
1 Thessalonians 5.12-13
If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.
1 Peter 2.20
My Dad has been a pastor for over 48 years. Given that the average time one serves as a pastor in North America is 2.2 years, Dad’s tenure is quite an accomplishment. He has pastored five churches, served on
over a dozen international ministry boards, presided over two schools of ministry, still pastors a local church, still serves as the Bishop of his denomination, and still sits as the Chairman of the Board for a prestigious private school. Dad has preached in over thirty countries, delivered food and medical supplies to missions, and smuggled Bibles behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. That’s quite a resume.
To celebrate his 25th year as the Senior Pastor of Calvary Christian Church, friends and family put together a banquet dinner and a ceremony in honor of Dad and his achievements. It was all very nice, but Dad had sat through a few of those things for others over the years, and it didn’t seem to affect him emotionally.
Until the end.The last presentation of the evening was from someone announcing that a Gordon A. McDonald scholarship fund had been set up to reward an outstanding academic student who showed moral fiber and aspired
to ministry. Dad cried. That scholarship represents everything he’s tried to achieve in his life, everything he wants to be, and everything he’s ever hoped to replicate in others. He was truly honored.
Seeing Dad affected in such a way has made me reflect on how rare those occasions are when we hold others up in high esteem and thank them for their contribution to the kingdom. But those who have gone before us– whether Aristarchus or Gordon A.– are worth remembering. They raise the bar, they set the standard, and they show us what it means to live lives wholly devoted to God. The very least we can do to honor them is to read their names at the end of Paul’s letters and reflect on who our heroes really are.