“We always thank God, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people…since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord…bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” – Colossians 1:3-10
“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” This famous quote by English author, G.K. Chesterton illustrates a simple truth. There is a difference between knowing something in theory and knowing something in practice. Describing someone as clever often implies that she or he is quick to grasp a particular concept. The letters of the Apostle Paul hint that the early church was quite clever in how quickly they set out to put the faith into practice.
Often, like in the letter to the churches in Colossae, Paul praises churches because he has heard of their actions. These small, nascent communities have done more then intellectually agree with the tenants of Christianity, they have begun to test it out in their daily lives. Their efforts did no go unnoticed:
“we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people” – Colossians
“we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God…you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches” – 1 Thessalonians
“everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil” – Romans
Keep in mind, these early churches did not have Bibles or seminaries. They had no publishing houses dedicated to Christian literature and no premade theological curriculum to apply. They were very short on educational resources. Being clever was not about their level of education. Their cleverness was born from their willingness. The guidance they followed was simple to understand and profoundly difficult to practice.
Love one another.
It’s easy to associate being clever with being intelligent. But I wonder if being clever has less to do with the ability to understand and perhaps more to do with the willingness to put into practice.