“Live wisely among those who are not believers,
and make the most of every opportunity.
Let your conversation be gracious and attractive
so that you will have the right response for everyone.”
Are my conversations always “gracious and attractive?" Do I always have “the right response for everyone?” Do I always “live wisely?”
Of course not.
I would be a liar and a hypocrite if I claimed any of these things.
Does that mean that I shouldn’t bother striving to meet these measures? Of course not, either.
There are two extremes in Christian doctrine out there that I’ve noticed discussed in the New Testament. That isn’t to say that there aren’t other extremes as well, but the two that I am speaking of today are, in some respects, two sides of the same coin.
On the one extreme are those who teach that we are made right with God by following the Law of Moses in addition to what Christ has done for us. The apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians to specially address the false and dangerous teachings of the Judaizers – those who insisted that the non-Jewish Christians comply with the Law of Moses, including circumcision.
Of these people, Paul wrote, “Even that question came up only because of some so-called Christians there—false ones, really—who were secretly brought in. They sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us and force us to follow their Jewish regulations. But we refused to give in to them for a single moment. We wanted to preserve the truth of the gospel message for you (Galatians 2:4-5).”
Instead, Paul writes in Galatians 5:16-18, “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.”
Which brings me to the other extreme.
Over the last few years, I have been accused of preaching a “greasy grace” message. By proclaiming the good news of God’s unmerited grace toward us as exemplified through Jesus Christ, I am sometimes painted out as preaching and practicing lawlessness, when nothing could be farther from the truth.
The book of Jude addresses these types of ‘teachers,’ in writing “Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God's marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (Jude 1:3-4).”
So, on the one extreme are those who teach legalism, and on the other are those who teach licentiousness. Yet, the common denominator is that both extremes lead people away from following Christ. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).”
Earlier, Paul had written to the Corinthians, “Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).”
Which brings me back to Colossians 4:5-6, “make the most of every opportunity.”
Don’t be a legalist –or- an anarchist. Enjoy the simple freedom you have in Christ, but don’t abuse that freedom to please yourself. Instead, use your freedom to serve others, walking in love. Make the most of every opportunity, finding common ground with everyone, doing all that you can to save some.
Be an opportunist.
Love in Christ,