Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the use of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here (Col. 4: 5-9).
Who are the outsiders, and how must we treat them?
There is a tendency to regard people who are not yet believers in Jesus as outsiders and therefore, enemies. They are ‘outside’ and we are ‘inside’, therefore we regard ourselves as better than they, We are going to heaven and they are going to hell, so it does not matter if we treat them badly!
Who said so? This is not how Jesus treated people who had not yet come to faith in Him. To Him, they were lost sons and potential brothers, and He used every opportunity to invite them to come home. He said that His mission was to seek and save the lost.
Paul said, ‘Make the most of every opportunity.’ He did not tell us to dangle them over the fires of hell and bash them with the Bible. He said that we are to use every opportunity. Every opportunity to do what? I think he meant every opportunity to be kind and generous towards them so that they will have glimpses of Jesus in the way we treat them. Then we can share the good news with them that they can also become part of God’s forever family.
Paul’s generous love encircled everyone, especially the members of God’s family, regardless of who or what they were as far as the world was concerned. Take, for instance, Onesimus whom he included in his closing greeting as a ‘faithful and dear brother’.
Onesimus was immortalised in Paul’s letter to Philemon as a runaway slave who came home to the Father through Paul’s influence. He wanted to remain in Rome and serve Paul, but Paul knew that he had an obligation to send him back to Philemon to whom he rightfully belonged. It was up to his owner, not Paul, to decide his fate. It was his right to have him put to death, but Paul pleaded with Philemon on his behalf, to treat him with mercy, especially since he had become a faithful and dear brother.
Without hesitation, Paul put Tychicus and Onesimus on the same level. After all, had he not previously stated that there was no difference between slave and free in God’s kingdom? Social status no longer applied because people of every colour and culture had become brothers and one in Christ. Onesimus was the acid test and Paul accepted him as one of God’s people because he had also become a new person in Christ.
Paul would not allow the churches to forget him simply because he was shut up in prison. Through those who came and went, he kept contact with the family of God so that they would not forget to pray for him. Apostle though he was, he was not above the need for prayer. Through the love and prayers of his fellow believers all over the Roman Empire, he would not succumb to the pressures of persecution and torture and deny his faith in Christ or his hope in the gospel.
Paul was not only a believer in his own right. He was also aware of his responsibility to model Jesus to those who looked up to him as an example. He needed God’s grace in his human weakness as much as everyone else did. He was not above admitting his need and asking for prayer for himself and his ministry. It was important to him to keep his fellow believers informed about his circumstances and even his anxieties and fears so that they would know how to intercede for him.
How important it is for us to pray for our spiritual leaders too! They are not above temptation, and have to face pressures that the man in the pew will never experience. Criticism and judgment come easily to those who do not walk in their shoes. How do they react to those who are never satisfied with what their spiritual leaders do and how they perform, and tell the world about their gripes? They must answer to the Lord, not to their critics.
Paul’s counsel to us is to pray for them. Every pastor needs prayer far more than he needs public condemnation. They are ‘dear brothers’ just like Onesimus, the runaway slave.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.