I am Archippus
Eric Davenport | October 20, 2021
It’s funny how a simple phrase, seemingly out of the blue, can jolt your heart and capture your mind. It’s as though the Spirit selects just the right phraseology for just the precise season- no, the precise moment- you are in. Probably like me, this happens to you from time to time. It might be a line from a podcast, a sentence in a book, or a timely word from a friend. But it causes me to stop. I might hit the 15-second rewind button a few times, or highlight the sentence, or slowly echo the words just spoken. The words capture my heart and won’t let me go. I find myself getting the phrases out and turning them over in my mind as I drive or as I pray, recognizing that they are from the Lord. They are meant for me.
I had this experience last fall. The words were from an ancient letter written by the apostle Paul. In the next to last verse of Colossians, a seemingly throwaway line appears: “And say to Archippus, ‘See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.’” Who was this Archippus and what was this ministry that Paul felt the need to remind him of? I still can’t help but wonder what sort of paralyzing jolt went through him as he heard his name in the public reading of the letter. And why does Paul need to remind him of the ministry in the first place? Was Archippus neglecting it? Had he forgotten or been distracted? Was he discouraged? Had Archippus given up?
Although these ancient words were most definitely intended for a specific person, Archippus, the message seemed intended for me as I read them last fall. I was in the final months of parenting my high school senior before he loaded up his truck ready for his independent future at college. Perhaps I was tired and, admittedly, a bit distracted from my role of discipleship in his life. Or perhaps I was a bit uncertain how this relationship between man-child son and so-much-left-to-say father should look in these final months. Maybe you can relate. Either way, I needed a renewed perspective. I needed a reminder. I needed to be admonished.
Paul tells Archippus to “fulfill (or complete) the ministry that you have received in the Lord.” Can I ask you? What is the ministry that you have received? Pause a moment to name it. Define it. Put faces to it. How does it sit within your spirit? What emotions does it surface?
For many of us, we have received a familial ministry: faithfully engaging with teens till the end, walking with adult children through the challenges of life, connecting with young children with loving attention and affectionate play, caring for aging parents, a sick spouse, or a child with special needs. Each one offers profound joy but also carries with it heartaches and reasons to grow weary or lose focus. Yet each is a ministry received in the Lord- sometimes by our choosing and sometimes not. There are certainly times the Lord gives a person a ministry they weren’t looking for or expecting, and so they yield themselves to accept it. Maybe Archippus had never embraced the ministry given to him and that’s why Paul so publicly gave him the charge to fulfill it. We don’t know. But I can’t help but wonder how Archippus responded. Did he fulfill his ministry?
What would it look like for you to fulfill or complete the ministry that you have received in the Lord?
For me it meant morning coffee dates at Panera, a renewed genuine interest in his interests, going to bed later than my body desired to not miss those late-night conversations, and prayerfully seeking the teachable moments we all long for as parents.
And now that my son is off on his grand college adventure, the words written to Archippus linger before me as my wife and I continue into our third decade of parenting with 6th and 7th graders still in our home. “And say to Eric, ‘See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.’” I am Archippus.
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