Last Sunday we looked at Colossians 4:2-6. In that passage, Paul tells the Colossians to “walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time” and to “let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Col 4:5-6 ESV). For many of us, obeying these verses by living differently than the non-Christians in our life and speaking with a gracious boldness about what we believe to them can be very difficult. With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to revisit the central command of verse 5; “walk…”
The term “walk” is used all over scripture to describe consistent and steady daily living. In Genesis 5 we are told about Enoch who “walked with God.” In other words, his life was filled with days of consistent and unwavering devotion to God. That idea is also in mind when we are told in Deuteronomy 5:33 to “walk in all the way the Lord your God has commanded you.” The same goes for Micah 6:8 as we are told what the Lord requires of his people; “to do justice, to love kindness and walk humbly with the Lord.” Paul himself uses the word many times, such as in Romans 8:4 when he describes Christians as those who “walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” So when Paul says in Colossians to “walk in wisdom toward outsiders” he is calling us to wisely live out our daily lives – both individually and as a community of believers – amongst outsiders.
This is really helpful advice for getting us over some the fears we have when trying to share our faith. Too often we feel like we need to “get it all out there” in a single conversation because we don’t expect to converse regularly with the non-Christians we’re talking to. If our daily life is being lived amongst outsiders than we know that each conversation, paired with how we live and work, is simply one aspect of our interaction with them. As a result, we will be able to talk about the Gospel –the good news of what God has done through Jesus and how that has changed our life – in ways that are relevant to their own felt needs and fears instead of just confronting them with a presentation.
Notice also how at the end of this passage Paul hopes that we will know how to answer each person. The Gospel should have such an effect on us that our daily life incites questions from observers as to why it is so different from their own. Certainly there is a need to proclaim the Gospel to others even when not provoked. The Gospel is good news. News is only spread as people tell others about it. A poor beggar who finds a plentiful supply of food can’t expect other poor beggars to find out about that source without him telling them about it. At the same time, it would be ridiculous to think that the increase of joy and nutrition in that beggar’s life wouldn’t incite questions from other poor beggars. That is us as Christians. We have a wonderful message to tell to others. Therefore we look for every opportunity we can to share it. This message makes such a difference in our own lives that even when we don’t see opportunity to share it, those who don’t know it will inevitably be asking us about it.
If you’re looking for more resources on sharing the Gospel, I highly recommend a short book by Mack Stiles called Marks of the Messager: Knowing, Living and Speaking the Gospel. What makes this book so helpful is that, instead of focusing on a method, it focuses on the orientation of the messenger. While Stiles does not downplay the need for thoughtful methods, he knows that even flawed ones thrive when they are used by those in whom the Gospel has taken root. This, indeed, is what the God who causes the Gospel to bear fruit and grow (Col 1:6) longs to do in and through us.