I have written much about the new global reality we’re facing right now and how that should shape the conversations we have and our overall Gospel narrative. Now, more than ever, we are thrust into the middle of relationships with people from other parts of the world, and we have to find ways of seizing the opportunity before us as we face the future with ‘foreigners’ in our neighborhoods. I believe they play an important role in our future, in fact, their very presence in our neighborhoods enables us to connect with the rest of the world in ways we could never have imagined.
Our relationship with our neighbors unlike ourselves should be seen in missionary terms; we need to strive to understand and seek to love those God has brought to our city and into our neighborhood. When we see this as an opportunity and not a threat, all kinds of good things happen that were not previously possible. Let’s explore how we walk in wisdom and welcome the stranger from a Biblical perspective.
Walking in Wisdom toward outsiders (Colossians 4:3-6)
“3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. 5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person”.
Paul clearly understood the reality that the Gospel welcomes all those who are strangers—those who were once far off! In his travels, he saw these ungodly urban centers, filled with pagans, as an opportunity to engage with the Gospel, rather than a battlefield to attack. He had a different perspective to the one that we often embrace. The question, of course, is: How can we view any religion or people group negatively when we’ve been called to love them all and share the good news of Jesus with them? The reality is that our negative feelings are often matched by insensitive actions.How can we view any religion or people group negatively when we’ve been called to love them all and share the good news of Jesus with them? Click To Tweet
Paul, in Colossians 4, offers a different approach. Look at the words he uses: clear, wisdom toward outsiders, making the best of time, gracious speech, know how you ought to answer. In other words, sharing the gospel is more than giving the Romans Road plan of salvation or the four Spiritual Laws. It’s not me giving a set of facts for others to act on, but listening to them, understanding where they are in their lives and faith, and dealing with their questions—all the while sharing how Jesus makes all things new.
Family in an Age of Dislocation (Acts [17:16]; 21)
“16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols….21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.”
We need to be reminded that every great move of God has always involved migration: Noah; Abraham the pilgrim in the Holy Land; Joseph in Egypt; from Egypt to Canaan with Moses and Joshua; David to Jerusalem; and Jesus and his call for the Gospel to be taken to the ends of the earth.
Note especially how our situation today is so much like that in Paul’s day. Look at Paul at Mars Hill (Acts 17). In his sermon, he began by meeting people where they were, even complimenting them, before moving forward. But much more is going on here than an example of how to speak. Cities act like magnets to people who want to advance economically which displaces them from their extended families and forces them to find places where they can find community and affinity in their new homes. This was true in Paul’s day too, and they spent their time gathering and considering the plethora of philosophies that defined the world (Acts [17:21]). Paul engages with their community and finds points of connection to share the Gospel. He exercises understanding before jumping to communicating!We can only love those we know personally. So, we cannot practice this bold love of people unless we first focus on God. Click To Tweet
We can only love those we know personally. So, we cannot practice this risky, bold love of people unless we first focus on God. I reach out to someone I don’t even know, not because I love that person—I probably don’t, because I don’t even know him or her— but because my bold love is directed at Jesus and following his commands to love others. I express bold love toward others because he first expressed bold love toward me. I am responding to his bold love. What should be our radical response to those we encounter in our city and neighborhood?
It was radical when Billy Graham went to Russia to preach; he was criticized for meeting with “godless atheists.” We must be equally radical in our day. But we don’t need to go to Russia, China, or Saudi Arabia; we need only look around at our workplaces, in our neighborhoods, and in our cities to see people from all over the world. God has brought the world to our nation. What a gift! He’s calling all of us to love. We all get to be missionaries of love on our streets and in our neighborhoods.I express bold love toward others because God first expressed bold love toward me. I am responding to His bold love. What should be our radical response to those we encounter in our neighborhood? Click To Tweet