Colossians 4:5-6: Make the Most of Every Opportunity!

April 27, 2015

5Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders;
make the most of every opportunity.
6Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how to answer everyone.

I have just spent two weeks immersed in the culture of “outsiders,” that is, those people who are not (yet) included in the household of faith in Jesus Christ. Turkey is, they say, 98% Muslim. Though it has a secular government, its red flag features a crescent and star. It straddles both Asia and Europe, ancient and modern, calm (in the west) and chaotic (in the southeast, at the Syrian border). It is a culture foreign to me, and yet its hospitality, geographic beauty, cultural richness, and historical significance all resonated. I made a habit of coming to Jesus Christ, the Lord, in prayer whenever I was conscious of the local mosque’s call blaring from the minaret. I decide that the discipline of The Hours is worth consideration, now that I am back home amidst the normal racket of American life.

Thirty of us tourists, all with Fuller Seminary in our background, toured sites of biblical and church history interest in western Turkey and Greece. Traveling by foot, plane, bus, funicular, ferry, and cruise ship, we traversed in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul and the Early Church. In most cases, the label “tourist” hung around our necks, automatically making conversation with the locals very filtered. However, there were moments here and there in which we could be salt and light. Never, though, was I able to engage anyone in conversation about Jesus or the Christian faith. The closest I came to substantive (unfiltered) chats occurred on the Aegean cruise ship and on the plane home!

But as I placed myself in Paul’s shoes, and took his exhortation to heart, I realized that outsiders are everywhere—not just in Turkey—and that I have opportunities for salty conversations almost daily. Here at home, for instance, the Peet’s Ladies and the quilt club provide significant moments for cross-cultural communication.

What sort of mindset does Paul describe here that would help me “make the most of every opportunity”?

Wisdom. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders.” Wisdom is the God-given ability to assimilate the knowledge you have about God and your conversation partner into a relationally healthy and true encounter. Wisdom draws upon God’s love, power, and direction to know how to act in a good and trustworthy way. Wisdom is not itself knowledge, but the ability to use godly knowledge to form life choices that are life-giving, God-honoring, and respectful of others. Wisdom is always listening for God, which brings us to the second mindset:

Alertness. “Make the most of every opportunity.” It requires God’s eyesight to see the opportunities for Kingdom impact around us. If we are committed to seeing the world around us as God sees it, we will become sensitive to the spiritual needs of others. As this awareness builds, we see opportunities and are called to make the most of them. I see this as a spiritual “seize the day” mentality, akin to the exhortation, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today” in the realm of spiritual conversation. This does not mean that the Christian is in a hurry, or a bull in a china shop. It just means that the Christian is called to be alert to what is going on in her relationships with others and—with wisdom—take the opportunities offered to go deeper.

Graciousness. In my day I have seen enough ungracious encounters between Christians and unbelievers, in the name of boldness and truth-telling, to know that we have a huge responsibility in conversational style. As God has offered us grace, so we are to demonstrate patience, kindness, and understanding of others even as we share an alternative world-view. It is of course not just any alternative—the gospel of Jesus Christ is true and life-changing—but to the outsider it is a radical new way of thinking and believing! Let us be gracious toward those bewildered, threatened, or otherwise uncomfortable with the heart of the gospel.

Saltiness. One little grain of salt can work wonders on a hard-boiled egg. So too in conversation with unbelievers, one little comment can transform the taste of the gospel into something irresistible. Let us not be afraid to be specific, true, and pithy when introducing the idea of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior to others.

Responsiveness. Knowing how to answer anyone is a skill and spiritual gift. It is not a know-it-all attitude (arrogance) nor is it uncaring or unlistening (callousness). Responsiveness is the willingness to let our conversation partner ask questions and reveal a personal sense of need, to which we then can address comments or answers. We do not have to be in charge of the agenda at all times! But we are called to be responders who, alert to the opportunities and sensitive to a person’s needs, are ready and willing to enter into conversation with an outsider.

God, by his Holy Spirit, enables us to be wise, alert, gracious, salty, and responsive. Can you see how your ministry with outsiders could be transformed by letting the Spirit work within you?


4 Responses to “Colossians 4:5-6: Make the Most of Every Opportunity!”

  1. emd5542 Says:

    So grateful, Mary, to again read your blog. As calls to “be mindful” or “mindfulness” creep into our daily lives from those who incorporate eastern religions into Christianity, this is the true mindfulness I can grasp and live out. Thanks be to God for your godly mindfulness which radiates from your core.

  2. Bruce Pope Says:

    Welcome home…“We must remember that if all the manifestly good men were on one side and all the manifestly bad men on the other, there would be no danger of anyone, least of all the elect, being deceived by lying wonders. It is the good men, good once, we must hope good still, who are to do the work of Anti-Christ and so sadly to crucify the Lord afresh. Bear in mind this feature of the last days, that this deceitfulness arises from good men being on the wrong side.” Fr. Fredrick Faber > >>

  3. Jodie Gallo Says:

    Welcome back Mary! Turkey is the birthplace of Western Christianity, and it is definitely on my bucket list.

    Your comments remind me of what my mother used to say about good manners starting at home. How could we expect to show good manners at other people’s dinner table if we couldn’t show good manners at our own.

    Your comment about graciousness is one that strikes a chord with me right this minute. But it is the graciousness we show to fellow believers, or lack thereof, in the name of boldness and truth-telling that troubles me most. Specially in this day and age when everyone carries either a real or a metaphorical camera in their hands, and everything we say and do to each other can and will end up on the front page of the New York Times or CNN.

    How we treat each other tells more about us to the unbelieving world than anything we could possibly do or say to them directly.

    Jodie Gallo
    Los Angeles, CA

    • revmary Says:

      Yes, Jodie, you should go to Turkey some time. I can’t speak for summer weather, but it was delightful in April. I agree with you about graciousness toward one another (fellow believers). As Jesus said, this is how folks will know that we are his disciples, if we have love for one another.

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