“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 we talked about the Second Commandment on Sunday, we noted that language, in our culture, has grown increasingly vulgar and irreverent. Cursing and insults have become a part of our everyday speech. Vulgar jokes have become the norm. And, as this practice has become more common in society, it’s also become more common among us as Christians.
We think that we must talk in this way as a demonstration of strength. We believe it reveals to others that we’re not to be trifled with. We will not be a doormat. We will not allow ourselves to be trampled upon.
Yet, in the above passage, God calls us to something different. He tells us to walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of our time. He then goes on to say that we’re to let our speech be gracious at all times.
What does this mean? Grace, as we know, is unmerited favor. This tells us that we’re to speak to people not according to what they deserve. We are to speak favorably to them, no matter how they are behaving toward us.
I don’t mean by this that we can never say no to anyone. I mean that we’re to speak lovingly, even when their speech is unloving. We’re not to hold their wrongs against them, but speak to them in a way that demonstrates mercy and compassion. Our speech is to reflect the love and the grace that God has demonstrated toward us and all mankind.
This does not make us weak. It, instead, points people to Christ. It reveals to them the love of God which has been given to us and which he offers to them.
Our natural tendency is also to blend in with the world around us. Our tendency is to speak as they speak. And we do this so that we’re not made to feel different. We do this that we might not be excluded.
However, we’re told in this passage that our speech is to be seasoned with salt. In other words, it’s to be distinct from that of everyone else around us. It’s to stand out from the rest of society. And, again, this is done as a testimony. It reveals to others that there’s something different about us.
This, then, guides us in our response to others. We are to speak to them as God would speak to them. We are to share his heart for those around us, desiring their blessing and salvation.
I realize that this is easier said than done. After all, we’re not Jesus. We’re not perfect. We continue to possess a sinful nature. And that sinful nature often spills out of our mouth.
It’s for this reason that we seek the mercy of God. It’s for this reason that we ask him to work in our heart. And it’s for this reason that we ask him to speak through us, as we interact with the world around us.