1For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. 5For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.I get the impression from this passage that Paul has never met these people. Despite that, his heart is big for them. He struggles with them in their faith. He wants so much, for these people that he has never met, that they know God. That they really know him.
He doesn't want them to be led astray by philosophy, human traditions and such like. He longs for them to remain true to the gospel of Christ.
I read that and think two things
1. I sorta understand what he is talking about. I have people in my life that I have never met in person. Some of them I would dearly love to meet, others I am just content with hearing from. Many of these people are believers, some go to church, some -- because of various life circumstances do not. I feel as Paul does for the Colossian people. I want these folks to know Christ, to know the fullness of the gospel and to not be led astray by the "whatevers" in life.
2. at the same time I have difficulty connecting with what Paul is saying. He is talking to a group of people, and he cares for them all. His desire, His earning is for them to grow together as a people of God. That is something I find harder to do. I don't think I'm alone in that --- look at organizations like World Vision and Compassion...they get people to help by putting faces to individuals suffering. This draws support, which in turn helps larger numbers of peoples.
I do wonder why that is. Why that individual touch makes it easier for us to care about a distant people.
Paul cared, without even knowing them well. He rejoiced with them. He exhorted them to stand for the gospel and to not be led astray. This too I (we) should do as well.