Paul sums up a central calling and challenge of our life in Christ in a tiny phrase you might miss:
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… (Colossians 4:3).
There is palpable tension here.
Some of us rest firmly on the declare side. We are vocal, bold, black and white: to be a Christian, this is the way you must do it, must live it. We compete against the deceptive clarity of the false gospels that swirl around us — do this, eat this, take this, manage this, and you’ll be whole again — with a Christianity of precise calculations. We cling to a formula for behavior instead of to the Friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19).
Some of us lie back on the mystery side. There’s really nothing to understand or hold firmly or declare at all, we think. So we’ll just love and be. There’s no right or wrong, grace covers all, all roads lead to God, love wins in the end. Why can’t we all just get along?
Christians have lost favor because we’ve lost life in this tension. We either stand for all that we are “doing for God,” or we stand for nothing.
We declare the to-do list of Christ instead of the mystery of Christ — that He saves us in spite of what we do and not because of it.
Or we proclaim the mysteries of the world instead of the mystery of Christ. We are delighted and seduced by our own cleverness — our own enlightened willingness to embrace ambiguity — instead of believing we have been given the mind of Jesus (1 Corinthians 2:16).
Lean to one side or the other, and our lives will tip over.
Declare with no wonder of mystery, and we will lose hope. When suffering or hardship or uncertainty smashes in, we will stagger away, wondering why doing things right didn’t make things go right.
Mystery with nothing to declare, and we will lose faith. We’ll talk ourselves out of all we believe, and we’ll certainly never talk anyone into it.
To declare with mystery — we must practice daily the cry of the Psalmist:
An acute awareness of our sin —
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
A constant pleading for the Spirit —
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
An abiding joy for God’s rescue —
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
A faithful watching for the open door for the word — the chance to speak boldly to fellow sinners about the mystery of His grace —
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you (Psalm 51:9-13).
It demanded prayer for David — and for Paul. It will demand prayer for us.