5Conduct yourself with wisdom in your interactions with outsiders (non-believers) make the most of each opportunity [treating it as something precious]. 6Let your speech at all times be gracious and pleasant, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how to answer each one [who questions you]. Colossians 4:5-6
I love how the Amplified Translation reminds us that every interaction with a non-believer is a precious opportunity God has hand-delivered to us to carry out His gracious and pleasant will for that person's life. Pastor Wayne always reminds us that the one thing we won’t ever see again in heaven is an unsaved person. We only have a few trips around the sun to make sure everyone meets Jesus The Son as their Savior. How do we do it? By arguing with non-believers on Twitter, Facebook and over email? By shouting on a street corner with signs reminding sinners they are going to hell? By heavily implying that the right political party will keep a person in right standing with God? By arguing theology with someone until they truly understand how wrong they are? Paul had all of these options (except for the social media) at his disposal for how to instruct the Church in Colossae on how to reach the non-believer. Paul instead chose to focus the attention and instruction for evangelism on Jesus. Jesus called us to be salt and then showed us how to season the world around us. He spent so much time with “non-believers” that he was branded a sinner himself by the religious elite. They preserved themselves in the ivory towers of their religious institution while Jesus spent time with the people who thought they had no access to the presence of God. How did He do this? Not by being the Bible Answer Man but by asking questions. In fact, Jesus asks 307 questions in the Gospels. He is always looking to extend the conversation. He could have shut the people down quickly, but He wants to build a relationship so He keeps asking questions. A little bit more salt, a little bit more flavor in that conversation. He is asked 183 questions during His ministry. Can you guess how many he actually answers? Three. Yep. Three. Why? Because the best evangelism happens through self-discovery. More is caught than taught. Rules without relationship equal rebellion. However you want to put it, a relationship is king to the King of Kings and should be to us too.
I was recently having my teeth cleaned by a new dental hygienist. She wasn’t new to the field but was new to that office and so she was asking questions to get to know me as she heard I was a pastor. She talked to me about she had attended New Hope Oahu at Farrington with her friends a few times but was not raised in a religious home. She described how her Mom sent her to a Buddhist school growing up not because her family was Buddhist but because “the teachers were nice”. When she asked her Mom about choosing a religion her Mom’s response was “I just want you to be good. That’s all that matters.” As she stuffed instruments into my mouth I thought about how that one lie would send more people to Hell than probably almost any other. Being good enough is good enough… Right? Wrong. None of us can be good enough to be God enough to get ourselves into Heaven. I could have quoted some verses and put her in her place. But while she was having me say “Ahhhh” I was having an “ah-hah” moment. Talk to her about why she loves what she does. She described how she couldn’t stand the fact that even doctors who knew how vital dental health was to the rest of the body would still not come in for cleanings. I told her I understood her “why”. She wanted people healthy. I told her I felt the same way. We have this amazing God with amazing instructions to clean our soul but even those who know best still ignore it. You could tell she had never thought about the Bible or Jesus from this perspective, but because it was couched in a language she understood… she understood. By the end I found myself asking enough questions in between spitting and cleaning to talk to her about her fiancé and upcoming wedding plans. Turns out she might need me to do her wedding. Turns out I had a previous encounter with one of God’s precious daughters who is standing just outside the gates of Heaven.
Paul starts out this passage in Colossians 4 asking us to pray that we be alert, thankful and bold in our presentation of the Gospel to those around us. Help me to remember that there’s no such thing as a “chance meeting” but rather to see every meeting as a chance to build a relationship with someone who doesn’t yet have a relationship with You. May my speech be gracious, pleasant and ready to not just give answers but ask questions that lead to them finding You as the answer to every question they’ve ever had!