Walk in wisdom towards outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4: 5-6
Throughout Lent and Easter, I often reminiscence about one of our family transitions into a new neighborhood cul-de-sac. When we moved in, the neighbors were welcoming, kind and yet noticeably divided in beliefs and allegiances. A fragmented history unraveled as the family on our left expressed their stony Christian concern toward our unbelieving neighbors across the street. The problem was clear: There was opposition. Our small cul-de-sac lacked compassion, wisdom and unity that only the gospel could bring to rebuild that which was broken.
As sojourners in this fallen world, we’ll experience disagreement in a range of colorful emotions, intellectual jeering and questionable accusations. Like Nehemiah faced opposition from Sanballat and Tobiah in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (Neh. 4:1), Scripture affirms that we will experience the enemy’s ambition to pester, taunt, mock and insult us as he did toward Christ.
Although our neighborhood experienced relational conflict and opposition, our hope was to follow Nehemiah and be intentional with our prayer, our time and the relationships surrounding us.
As neighbors do, we talked of work, travel and weekend commitments while raking leaves or through a game of basketball with our sons. On walks or while running, my husband and I prayed for God’s providential hand to stir in all the hearts and homes. When needed, we invited our unbelieving neighbors over for help with different projects, cultivating genuine friendships.
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:17
By grace, this couple who originally took offense to our beliefs grew in a sincere thirst for the heart and character of God.
On one occasion, our two families joined together on their back porch before Easter weekend. Our conversation circled around to the reflection of Lent, the cross and resurrection of Christ. In a direct, confrontational tone, our friend stated, “Well, I would have died on the cross if I had been asked, knowing the great need of mankind.”
After moments of silence and a quick prayer, we turned to the Spirit’s gentle counsel, and I responded: “Jesus Christ was the only perfect, spotless sacrifice for our sins and for all mankind. Scripture speaks about a call within our responsibilities and response to the gospel (Mark 8:34-35). Every day holds a choice for us to deny ‘self,’ take up our cross and follow Christ. To die to pride, selfish gain and live life according to the flesh involves our attention toward the call that ‘whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel will save it.’ This leads to a lifestyle that is described as walking ”according to the Spirit.“
By God’s grace, the conversation continued from that point on. We began to meet regularly, reviewing the prophecies and fulfillment of Christ, sharing our personal testimonies and listening to their authentic questions, fears and misunderstandings toward the gospel.
These were sweet years of discipleship in our cul-de-sac as we struggled to navigate through relational conflict and life experiences in celebration, loss, struggles and eventually our transfer out of state.
2 Timothy 2:23-26 provides wisdom for us as ambassadors of Christ as we face resistance: Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
Out of opposition, the Lord brings opportunity. He did for His servant Nehemiah, and He will for us as we trust in Him.