I regularly find myself challenged by Paul’s instructions in Colossians: “Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time.”
The name “outsiders” reminds us of what is at stake. We who are Christians now experience hope, and joy, and forgiveness through Christ. But this is not true of everyone. Many remain “outside” in the cold, outside of Christ, outside of any real hope.
Paul tells us we must not be complacent. We have a mission as God’s people to be unceasingly hospitable, seeking again and again to welcome outsiders in. “Make the most of the time” demands intentional effort. We must be diligent in taking advantage of the opportunities given to us.
The surrounding verses give us a pretty good picture of what he means by this:
“Devote yourselves to prayer,” Paul says, and then specifically requests prayer that God would “open a door” for the news about Jesus. Unless God provides an opening in the hearts of others, nothing we say to them will be profitable. You and I are called to pray regularly for those who don’t know Christ.
“Let your speech be gracious.” A key part of pointing people to Christ is in the way we love them. Mission is about more than simply asking unsuspecting neighbors if they want to come to church. It involves building a relationship with people God has put in our paths, earnestly seeking to love them whether or not they ever come to Christ. Especially in a day when the church has such a poor reputation for many, our words about Christ only gain credibility when they are accompanied by the love of Christ.
“Know how you should answer each person.” This language reminds us of the personal nature of the gospel: one size does not fit all. When God gives us “open doors” with people, each person’s needs and experiences are different. Some will be uncertain about God’s existence; others will believe most of the Bible but misunderstand the nature of grace; still others will be coming from the perspective of a different religion altogether. When saying “know how you should answer,” Paul is not assuming we will always have a brilliantly devastating response to every question. Rather, he’s encouraging us to make the gospel increasingly integral to our lives so that we have the instincts to speak of Christ (however clumsy that might feel) whatever the opportunity given.
Easter is just a bit more than three weeks away. I encourage you to “make the most of the time.” Pray for someone God has put in your place, seeking to love them faithfully. And if God opens the door, perhaps consider inviting them to church in three weeks time.