I marvel at those dare-devils who walk across deep chasms on a thin cable. Perhaps you do too. Their exploits are legendary and leave most of us in awe and wonder. But as I witness their daring I also know that I’ll never attempt it, my risk tolerance being much less than theirs. Yet, part of our walk with Jesus requires the balance, reflexes, patience, and dexterity of a high wire walker.
Unless someone is physically cloistered away from the world they can’t escape encountering folks who do not trust in Jesus. And that is good. We are not called in Christ to hide from the world but to introduce the world to Jesus. And that is the high-wire we must walk with the balance and dexterity of wisdom and grace.
Paul, writing to the Colossians, put it this way, “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.” (Colossians 4:5–6, NASB95)
Let’s first clear up Paul’s identification of “outsiders.” We all know the human tendency to determine who is included and excluded from a group. The first tight rope we must navigate is balanced between faith and love. Those that don’t yet trust in Jesus are “outside” of faith, but they are “inside” of God’s love.
It is important for us to hold faith and love in balance. Fall on the faith side and we become embroiled in judgementalism, withholding God’s love until some standard is achieved. If we fall on the love side then anything goes and faith becomes meaningless. Keeping these two balanced allows us to see where others are in regards to faith, extend the compassion of God’s kingdom to all, and creates the right conditions for growth in Jesus.
Let’s turn towards the practical. How can we walk in the world and hold on to our faith and love in Christ? Paul identified the need for wisdom and grace in what we read above. Wisdom for how to act and grace for what to say (or not say).
Do we go along or go against? There’s no right or wrong answer. What does wisdom say? What is the Holy Spirit saying? Sometimes we need to go along to build a relationship, sometimes we need to go against to keep from falling ourselves. There are also times where we may have freedom but the conduct may cause someone to stumble in their faith journey. Wisdom’s balance is found in the larger picture and goal of “making the most of the opportunity” to show the love of Christ. Underline the “show” part.
Likewise, what we say and don’t say must be “seasoned with grace.” It’s easy to speak against something or someone in judgment. But remember, grace means unmerited favor and giving what has not been earned or deserved. In the same way that God spoke grace and love to you and me, even though we did not deserve it, we are called to speak grace and love to all. Including those who are outside of faith in Christ.
Look at it this way. Keeping our balance between faith and love with wisdom and grace throws the world off-balance. This walk of balance encourages others to a higher standard and opens a door at the same time. We become a puzzle to them, a mystery that compels exploration. Maintaining that balance is not easy. It is, in fact, impossible without leaning on the Holy Spirit for each step.
As Christ-followers we often walk this high-wire as we navigate life. And we often fall from it. But that place of balance, faith, love, wisdom, and grace is where the light of Jesus shines the brightest.