I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
Maybe Paul dictated the bulk of this letter and then personally penned the final words. Perhaps that’s what he means by injecting such declarative information at the end of this letter. Or maybe he wrote the whole thing and felt the need to point that out. Either way, Paul’s hands touched this parchment at some point in the process. Paul had handwriting. I wonder if it was good handwriting. My handwriting is horrible. If I had anything of worth to write down and did not have a computer, I’d find someone to dictate for me - someone hopefully with better handwriting than mine of course. Either way, I find it inspiring to consider the “everydayness” of Paul writing letters. His hands moved an instrument across a medium to create a message. He was a person, like me and you, who wrote stuff down.
The humanity contained in the simple plea to “remember my chains” is almost a little unsettling. How much weight is captured by the plain request to remember Paul’s handcuffed hands (or ankles or whatever) in prison. I don’t know if he wanted them to remember to send food and clothing since most people in prison back then were not supported by the authoritative structure that sentenced them as is done in our western culture. If no one supported you, you died in prison perhaps. Or perhaps he is wanting them to be emboldened in their own faith. If Jesus is worth anything, He’s worth everything! Maybe Paul wanted these few words to communicate a simple truth: Jesus IS worth everything… even these chains. Maybe it’s because he didn’t introduce himself as a slave of Jesus in his greeting to the Colossians in chapter 1 that he visits the subject on the back end. Maybe it was just because he was lonely, in jail, writing letters to the people he cared most about because he was prevented from seeing them face to face (because of his chains).
The man whose chains deserve remembering, who wrote this greeting with his own hand asked God to provide peace for you. Grace be with you. Maybe he is hoping the same chained fate did not await his friends. Maybe he hoped they would be refreshed by new mercy and grace enough to endure imprisonment if that should be coming their way as well. Either way, he ends his letter inviting grace to be integral to their lives, for it to be “with” them. Grace is in Christ alone. Paul was a guy who needed grace to be saved. He wanted his friends to depend upon grace as well, taking it with them into their homes, into their workplaces, into the market and into their hearts and minds.
The combination of simplicity/profundity, humanity/supernaturalness in these closing words is astounding. I had not before considered them so deeply until my friend Josh pointed out the phrase “remember my chains.” What a world of words is contained in that simple phrase. Funny how I’ve found a way to write as much as I have about something Paul communicated with so little words. Paul was a person, a person who loved Jesus. The end.