Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should. 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. (Colossians 4:2-6 – NLT, CEB)
Picking up a little from yesterday’s post – Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks, Grow – this morning I’ve been thinking about how we not only experience, but communicate the good news of Jesus.
When the Jesus-story was first introduced, it sounded strange, and it was often difficult for people to grasp. The writer of Colossians points out not only how important it is that we share “the mystery of Christ,” but that we “proclaim the message clearly,” and that “our conversation be gracious and attractive.”
UNGRACIOUS: It’s a great principle; but I’m concerned that there is too much “faith-based” conversation that is neither gracious nor attractive. And – in consequence – God’s open invitation is nowhere near “clear.” In fact, much of what I’m hearing couldn’t possibly be coming out of “devotion to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”
The reason Paul ended up in prison was because this “mystery of Christ” proclaims Jesus as “Lord,” not Caesar. Rome didn’t ask for much from the world – just taxes, compliance, and unquestioning obeisance. Jesus told people it was okay to pay taxes, but that, “No one can serve two masters.” “Either you will hate the one and love the other,” he said, “or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other” (Matthew 6:24).
So we find ourselves in a culture where the gospel message should come across as a real head-scratcher, a “mystery,” something countercultural that doesn’t necessarily line up with the status quo.
- The message of Jesus is clearly invitational – whereas the world is all about excluding, judging, separating, sorting, and discrimination;
- the message from Jesus is to turn the other cheek, love our enemy, and reconciliation – whereas the world tells us to fight, seek revenge, assassinate, bully, divide, and conquer;
- the word from Jesus is that we turn no-one away, especially the widow, the sick, the children, and the traveler – whereas the world advocates barbed wire, fences, gated communities, and an end to any initiative (health care especially) that “takes away what is mine” to care for “them…;”
- the words of Jesus invite, “Come to me any one of you who are weary or burdened” – the world tends to exclude, based on a host of other, arbitrary, standards, prejudices, and the “plague-de-jour…”
Consequently, when I see some of the “loudest and proudest” religious folk align their voices with exclusion, with discrimination, with hate, with war, with prejudice, with rejection, with barbed-wire, with repression, and with cutting off the poor from help – then I see more “world” than I do gospel, more vitriol than “gracious and attractive,” more “my kingdom” than “kingdom of God.”
Rather than “declare the mystery of Christ… as clearly as I should,” the strident, reactionary, vitriolic, defined-by-what-they-are-against voices are likely driving more people away from God than they are reaching for the kingdom.
The good news of the Gospel of Love is a wide-open invitation for everyone. Come to Jesus. God is committed to renewed relationships with all people, and Jesus is prepared to make the introductions. Our job isn’t to divide the sheep from the goats; our job is to invite every last one of them to the banquet.