Is the idea of going back home exciting? Nerve wracking? Relieving? Terrifying? Maybe all those emotions rolled into one. If you are planning a vacation back to see family and friends, or you had to move back in with your parents after college or when you see old friends from school or work, or maybe just the thought of ever going home creates apprehension along with your anticipation. In Colossians we are introduced to a guy named Epaphras who we believe left Colossae, went to Ephesus and after hearing the Gospel and coming to faith in Jesus, he went back to his hometown of Colossae.
Can you imagine being Epaphras? We do not know much about Epaphras. He is only mentioned three times, twice of them in Colossians and once in Philemon. Paul says he is a fellow servant and says that he is one of them and sends his greetings as well. So I am taking complete license here to imagine his life, faith and struggle. Maybe Epaphras was the small town kid from Colossae growing up knowing and believing in God. He might have been a Greek, Roman or even a Jew, but he was probably a Phrygian who at least was an animist. He was just like everybody else until one day, he went to the big city of Ephesus and heard Paul ... and everything changed. It is believed that Epaphras became a Jesus follower and whatever he was before, he turned from it and turned to Jesus. Then he went back home!
Going home is never easy, especially when you are a changed person. Everyone thinks you are the same old person they knew before, but you are not! Jesus grew up in Nazareth and you can only imagine what people thought of this hometown kids claiming to be the Messiah. “What? That snotty little kid that ran all over the place. Mary and Joseph’s oldest boy? No way!” In Luke 4 Jesus arrives in his hometown to less than a warm welcome. He went to the synagogue and read from the scroll of Isaiah …
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
Then Jesus rolled the scroll up and said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21) Jesus continued to converse with those in the synagogue acknowledging that a prophet is never accepted in his hometown. Then …
When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. Luke 4:28–29
I wonder what kind of homecoming Epaphras got when he went back to Colossae and starting telling others about this Jesus. Eventually, he was successful enough that a church was formed and he stumbled his way through on the job training doing his best to live into this new faith. I can only imagine Epaphras, now an adult, being looked at and treated like the kid that everyone knew before. But God had changed him and he was willing and loving enough to go back to the people he knew were far from God ... his family, friends, neighbors and fellow Colossians.
It takes a lot to go back home. The place where we were not always at our best. The place where they still treat us as a child. The place where we are doing our best to live into who we are becoming in Christ. Going home creates a lot of anxiety in us for a whole lot of reasons. In our Faithwalking courses, we learn to do our best and most transformative work in our family of origin … we go home. It is there that we learn to live into who we are now becoming in an environment that often reminds of who we were.
When was the last time you talked with your family about your faith? Shared with them about what God was doing in you or what you are learning about God and yourself? Even if the welcome is rough and the anxiety is high, what might you learn about God’s love for you and others by going home?