Making the most of the opportunity
Colossians 3:18-4 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. 20 Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.
22 Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. 25 For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.
4 Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.
2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; 3 praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; 4 that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.
5 Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person…
“Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”
18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.
As he did in letters to the other churches, Paul writes about relationships among believers in today’s text. The text says: Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven. I think it is valuable for us to see this instruction and commentary regarding masters and slaves as it was written; not in a more applicable modern translation which might change it to workers and employees. Certainly it is good for us today, whether an employer or an employee, to apply these principles in workplace relationships. It is also important though that we remember that regardless of what the societal or cultural norm is, the principles of the kingdom of heaven should be what influence our lives, not what is normal. Paul did not focus on trying to change society. He focused on how Christ should change our hearts. Our society is obsessed with its individual rights. As believers, we need to recognize and be controlled not by what society says is right, but rather by what is right in God’s eyes and what is according to His will. Just because something is our right, it does not mean that it is right. Regardless of what society has established, we are to be controlled and influenced by the principles of the kingdom of heaven.
Paul also writes about our relationship to others, outside the church saying: Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. Salt was used as a preservative, not just to enhance flavor in Paul’s day. So speaking with grace is to speak in a way that preserves and enhances the relationship with others. Our goal in our conduct and our wisdom toward others is not that they would love and accept us. Jesus says we are to love our neighbor. (Mark 12:31) He says we should even love our enemies. (Matthew 5:44) Even so, in John 15:18-25 Jesus says: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’” Some would argue saying it was the religious leaders who hated Jesus, they were the ones who had Him crucified. But the world, the masses of people, even many of those who cheered Jesus coming into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, were among those who shouted “crucify Him” on Black Friday. The love and the grace with which we speak and conduct ourselves to outsiders, is not so that they will love and accept us in return. Just as they hated Jesus, without cause, so too will the world hate us, if we like Jesus, speak His word, the truth of God’s word. Our motivation is not to be loved or accepted by the world, rather as Paul says, we are to: Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. It is not an opportunity for personal gain we are to seek. But rather we are to make the most of every opportunity to represent Christ and the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. Even before we are to love our neighbor, the first and great commandment is this: "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'” (Matthew 22:37) We should make the most of every opportunity to show our love for God. The grace and wisdom with which we conduct ourselves toward outsiders is so that they too would love Him, not us.
Paul encourages the church to pray saying: Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ. Paul didn’t ask that they pray for His circumstance to change. He didn’t ask them to pray that he would be freed from prison. He asked that they be alert in prayer, with an attitude of thanksgiving. For us too, we need to be alert when we pray, listening to the Holy Spirit, praying what the Spirit is seeing and saying, not only what we see with our eyes and hear with our ears. We need to pray, in every situation, that God will open a door for the word, so that the mystery of Christ will come forth. Romans 8:28-29 says: We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. As we pray for others, we need to be alert, sensitive to the will of God and the voice of the Holy Spirit. Our prayers, like our words and our conduct should be with grace. We may not want to pray that God’s will would be done, that He would use the circumstances and the situations which people are in, for good, as we pray with them. Yet as we pray for them, as we are alert to the Holy Spirit, as we pray in the Spirit, we can indeed pray with thanksgiving, knowing that God indeed causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God. We need people to see the love of God, so that they will love Him and see the good through the circumstances of their lives, that they too would be conformed to the image of Christ, God’s Son.
“Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” Grace be with you. Amen.