Colossians 4:5 "Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one."
I must say right off the top that this morning's reading is short because it was like having the wind knocked out of me. When I was in grade 6 I was at a friend's house and he/we (I don't remember) had built a harness on a pulley that went from his garage roof down a rope to the deck on the back of his house about 75 feet away. We would climb up on the roof, get in the harness, jump off the roof and roll down the rope to the deck. It was great fun! About the 3rd trip I jumped off the roof and something broke and I landed on the ground below on my back. I will never forget laying there staring at the sky trying desperately to breath and wondering if I was going to die.
This morning I didn't think I was going to die but I definitely lost my breath. The word that squeezed my chest was 'always'.
We are to wisely walk toward those outside and speak to them ALWAYS with grace. The phrase "redeeming the time" is an incredible one. It means "making up for all the time wasted". The Jewish mind had no time, space, or love for those outside. If they did engage them it was on a confrontation level of making them aware how wrong they were. A look of pity or contempt. A crossing the street to avoid the "unclean" as Jesus illustrated with the story of the man beaten and robbed with the priest and Levite crossing the road and passing on the far side.
We avoid. We gather with those of like mind. We talk about 'them' in terms that make us feel holier or better than them. Religion and the human mind in general are very much about segregation. We create neighborhoods that segregate people based on income. Cities divide into ethnic clusters. Us and them is our mode of life.
Then came Jesus. He walked across national borders as if they didn't exist. He walked into communities He "wasn't supposed to enter" as though it was completely normal. He made no distinction between genders, religions, nationalities, economic or social divides. He was radical. I have begun to see that clearly for some time.
That is not what took me off guard this morning. It was that little word 'always'. It's one of those words like 'never' that leaves no wiggle room at all. My father in law wisely counseled me many times to not use the words always and never because they are inaccurate words. No one always leaves their shoes in the way or never closes the door behind them.
Paul leaves no wiggle room. He says always approach those 'outside' with grace... the word translated as grace can also be translated 'favour' or 'gift of kindness' or my favourite, 'a blessing brought to a man by Jesus'. What a contrast to the Christian crusades, the inquisition, the holy wars, or what's happening now with ISIS. We can't forget that Paul was once of the militant mindset, travelling around as a Jew seeking Christians to imprison around kill.
My influence in my sphere should be as a gift or blessing from Jesus. Favour and kindness should mark my thoughts, actions, and speech toward them ALWAYS. Think about it. If I was truly setting my mind on things above and my heart on Jesus day by day and letting Him into my messy glass on a continual basis wouldn't it just be unavoidable that when I poured my life into someone else's Jesus would come out? The same Jesus who was blind to the human distinction of "outsider". The same Jesus who seeks all His children with a love I can barely comprehend the edges of?
Perhaps I am the outsider and this is why every morning He speaks to me with Grace. Always. Were you wondering about the salt? Me too. Salt preserves. Our desire for others should be to preserve their life. Always. Apparently the best preservative is grace. Grace. Always.