“Walk in wisdom toward 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 ESV).
As Christians it is not uncommon that we find ourselves spending our time with other Christians. This is one of the many blessings given to us when we come to faith. In fact, scripture warns us that we should “not [neglect] to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25 ESV).
While there are exceptions to nearly every rule, it is in fellowshiping with other believers that we often find grace upon grace when we need it most. It is often the case that we can find someone who has gone through that which we are experiencing, someone who can bolster us in our struggles and walk beside us as we maneuver through life. And, of course, there is nearly always someone who will rejoice with us when we are rejoicing.
But we are not always interested in spending much time with those who are not in faith. Perhaps it is because “bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33 ESV). We fear being drawn back into a life separate from Christ. To be sure, there are places and people that some believers need to avoid, at the very least until they have become strong enough in their faith to resist temptation. Alcoholics and drug addicts need to protect their sobriety by maintaining space from people or locations that provide temptation.
But as mature and maturing Christians, we have an obligation to reach the lost. And this cannot be accomplished by spending all of our time with other Christians. We need to look for opportunities to share our faith; it’s part of the great commission! “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19 ESV).
So, what does this look like?
Our key verse today informs us that we need to walk wisely amongst the “outsiders,” those who do not know Christ Jesus. We need to be reminded often that we may be the only bible that some of them ever read. Our actions and our words have a much greater impact on those around us than we may ever know.
“Let your speech always be gracious”. Gracious speech doesn’t grumble and complain. It is a bitterness-free zone. It refuses to spread gossip. It knows and understands that there are times to keep silent. Gracious speech is empathic, and concerned about the welfare of those who hear it. It is mindful, understanding that careless words are more powerful in determining its impact on its hearers than “preachy” words.
“…Seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” What does this mean? It doesn’t mean lying or watering down truth as the common phrase, “take what they say with a grain of salt,” meaning that their words can’t be trusted. It means that we choose our words carefully in every situation. It means that we listen to what is said to us carefully and prayerfully so that we can respond with words of love when faced with words of hate, words of comfort for words of pain, words of faith for words of doubt. The list could go on and on.
The bottom line is that “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36 ESV). Do our words bring grace to those that hear, or do they place obstacles in their way? Do our words draw people to the Savior inside of us, or push them away in impropriety?