Good morning friends. I hope you had a great day in service to our Lord yesterday. We are back in Colossians 4 today.
Paul is in the midst of winding down his letter so he is fitting in last minute instructions. Yesterday we considered the importance of prayer and some of you have requested a fuller teaching on this subject. I will consider this over the Christmas break. Today I wish us to consider the second part of the same paragraph as Paul instructs the Colossians how they should behave toward people from outside of their faith community:
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. vs. 5-6
When I read this I was immediately struck by the word "outsiders". As you read the two sentences and consider this word I believe you will understand that Paul is speaking of the non-believers. We live in a society which tries very hard to be all inclusive and a Church that tries to do the same. We look to Jesus' example of who he hung out with and ministered to. But did he hang out with them as he was accused of, or did he simply spend time among some of the most rejected of society to demonstrate to them God's love? He also spent a lot of time with the Pharisees but was not part of them either. I think we need to consider well this notion of inclusiveness.
Paul uses the word "outsider" to refer to non-believers because that is what they are; they remain outside of the Body of Christ. Being part of the Church is not a matter of a piece of paper, your name on a role or even physically being there. Those who are mature understand that to be part of the Body of Christ is a spiritual matter and we recognize everyone who have confessed Jesus as Lord and Saviour have also received the Spirit and are one with us as we are one with Jesus. It is much stronger than being a family; we are stones in the walls of the Church:
You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)
We already know that Paul describes us as parts of a living body, which is a much stronger imagine than even of a family. Perhaps we fail to act that way in the flesh and in or attitude toward each other because we are too immature yet to have grasped a healthy understanding of the Church, but it still remains true.
Understanding this to be true and understanding that by our very nature and character we are different then those outside of the Body, we have to guard against excluding non-believers from our lives. They are outsiders, they cannot be one of us without Jesus, but we cannot fail to minister to all of them as Jesus did. They are our purpose for remaining here, that we would be used in their reconciliation with the Father just as people played a part in our reconciliation. The Word must be shared, the glass of water offered, the prayers given, the kindnesses shown, the love projected.
Paul tells us to be wise in our actions toward them. Remember, we may be the only representative of Jesus that they know. Our acts need to reveal to them God's heart. He also tells us to make the most of every opportunity. This tells me we have to be with them. This means we are spending time with them, which is great but also has some pit falls. We have to remind ourselves that they are from outside of the body so we have to be careful what we say and how we say it. If we spend all of our time being negative and criticizing other believers our witness will be ruined. If we are always complaining our witness will be lost. Paul says that our words should be full of grace and seasoned with salt. In other words we need to always speak the best of everything and include the wisdom of our Lord.
It is hard to understand that the world is on the outside looking in and that we have to go out and bring them in. We need to be careful of our responses and reactions while dealing with those on the outside because not everyone is ready. The Spirit prepares the heart for salvation so that leading someone to Jesus is not a wrestling match. If the person is not ready then move on to someone else until they are ready. Provoking and confronting will not win anyone over. Consider the woman at the well with Jesus. He entered into common conversation with her. He turned to her spiritual needs. He pressed in, having insight into her heart. She tried to avoid but did not resist. Would he have continued if she became confrontational? I doubt it. God does not force himself on anyone. There are enough souls needing to be saved, we do not have to put energy into someone that the Spirit has not finished preparing.
Let us go out today understanding our purposing and desiring to see people come into this incredible relationship with Jesus. Let us desire to help believers understand their place in the Church. Let us be wise in our actions and careful with our words so that we will only add to the reputation of our Lord and never be found taking away from it. Let us never forget, we are in this world for the sake of the ministry of reconciliation but we are not part of this world; we belong to another.