Bob Dylan sang passionately, "The times they are a-changin'." He was right socially, and this year, he was right literally as there was a leap second this past New Year's Eve. Atomic clocks that keep the world's time were held back to allow for an extra second this year to adjust for irregularities in the earth's rotation. It is not often that we get time back, even if only a second, and even if only in our minds. That is why the Scriptures tell us to redeem the time. While that phrase has many applications, in the Colossian context, it meant something very specific. We would do well to heed Paul's words here and make this a primary New Year's resolution.

 

In Col. 4:5, Paul transitions to exhortation in regard to foundational principles concerning how Christians are to act toward those outside the faith. He is no doubt thinking of such by virtue of his previous prayer request (2-4) with particular reference to his speaking the gospel as he ought. Thus, Christians are to "Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time."

       

The word "walk" refers to lifestyle and/or action. Christians are to live their lives in a certain way according to Paul. "Wisdom" refers to the proper application of biblical and theological knowledge to the heart and/or to the everyday affairs of life. "Those who are outside," as noted, refers to those who are outside of Christ. Thus, Christians are to live their lives in such a way that they are acting wisely toward those who don't know Christ. They are to conduct themselves wisely toward the lost.

       

Those who are outside of Christ often misunderstand Christians, the true nature of the gospel message, and the Christian stance concerning morality, social issues, and a myriad of other dynamics. In the early church for example, Christians were viewed as being disrespectful to the state because they would not worship Caesar; as homosexuals because they loved the brethren; as cannibals because they ate and drank the body and blood of Christ; as social elitists because they would not go to sporting events; and immoral because they often met behind closed doors.

 

No doubt Christians are misunderstood today in that they are viewed as bigoted because they say that homosexuality is sin; as judgmental because they condemn sin and love holiness; oppressive because they oppose abortion among other things; and intolerant because they claim that Christ is the sole, sufficient Savior. Christians must therefore understand the culture in which they find themselves and act wisely toward those who are saturated in that culture and its concomitant ideas. Knowing how pagans think, to what they object in Christianity, and responding accordingly, is walking wisely toward those who are outside.

        

At the same time, Christians are often obnoxious or insensitive when they witness. Such should not be the case. The gospel in itself, if given accurately, is offensive. Christians must never add to that offense with the offense of their personality or sin. Such sin could include arrogance, hypocrisy, impatience, or failure to explain the gospel adequately. Individuals who simply drop gospel or biblical bombshells, especially with a pejorative attitude, do more harm than good for the kingdom, gospel advance, and the Name of Christ. Calling people names, throwing out radical statements with no consideration for the knowledge of one's audience, or attempting to win religious argument at all cost are some of the things that Christians must avoid if they are to live in accordance with what Paul lays down here.