A man who was renowned for being wise penned a profound proverb 3,000 years ago which has been a signpost for countless humans in their quest for immortality. Solomon composed another equally elusive and intriguing saying. Coupled together these sayings read as follows, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die …God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end … A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume. And the day you die is better than the day you are born.” (Eccl. 3 ff)
I’ve shared this with hundreds of people from various backgrounds who I’ve met in all kinds of circumstances. I say, with a smile, “Here’s a gem of wisdom like a riddle. I think you’ll find it interesting.” Most people have responded warmly or even enthusiastically.
Some have been so intrigued that they’ve been drawn into a relationship where we could explore the real meaning of life. Notice, it is not just Christians and Jews who believe Solomon was endowed by God with exceptional wisdom, Muslims believe this too. In fact, Scripture says Solomon’s reputation for wisdom was so far-reaching that dignitaries came to visit him from around the world. So I’m not surprised when meeting people from a wide range of countries to see how strongly attracted they are by this wise saying of Solomon.
Over the last few decades there has been a huge influx of newcomers to the west, resulting in a colourful mosaic of different culture groups, especially in cities. Many of us who claim to follow Jesus, find it difficult to welcome such “strangers” especially Muslims, even though hospitality (“philoxenia” – love of strangers) is an important aspect of Christ’s teaching.
We’ve seen that Eccl. 3:11 is an effective springboard for broaching faith conversations with “outsiders” in a seasoned-with-salt manner, as we are instructed in Col. 4:2-6. But are there any simple guidelines for helping unbelievers who may be curious or even thirsty for living water? (i.e. eternal life, John 4:9-14) If you want to read some examples showing how such conversations have unfolded, email me here, raddad7[at]gmail.com and I’ll gladly send you a couple short stories. (Please adapt the email address appropriately.) David