“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4: 6). Toward the end of this wonderful and encouraging letter from Paul to the Colossians, he concluded with an exhortation prior to informing them of personal details. Speak graciously. Perhaps in no other time or era is this exhortation more needed or more practical than in our time. How familiar the expression, but sadly how lacking is the practice of the sentiment. In today’s cultural setting and especially due to the predominant individualistic mentality, we tend to speak freely, but is our speech gracious? Is our attitude gracious?
For believers, however, this exhortation is timely and timeless. We are to be salt and light in the world of our personal influence, in the community, in the culture at large. Taken in context, this encouragement comes off the heels of being circumspect and wise among those who do not share our faith. The believer’s attitude and behavior ought to reflect prudence. The believer has to be aware that entertaining the customs and ways of the world makes him vulnerable to its allure, whereby he may succumb to sin. Consequently, so as to keep pure in his life, the believer must exercise vigilance and expect that his associations with those outside of the Faith may put pressure on him about things, ideas and opportunities that do not align at all with his profession of faith. Evil communications corrupt good character. Further, and in similar fashion, the believer’s conduct must be just as guarded, not in generosity with the truth in love, but rather in moderating his behavior so as not to cause those outside the Faith to cultivate a negative attitude against it and its main object.
Gracious speech does not mean speech that flatters to vain ends, lacking in truth. When engaging individuals outside of the Faith, the believer’s communication must be gracious, so as to convey the dignity and respect others are due. Regardless of whether the same attitude is reciprocated or not, the believer must still offer his speech in just such a tone. All types of interactions must be “seasoned,” that is, they must have salt’s preserving qualities. Such speech must remain at a level where the subject matter and the theme are not about vulgarity and unbecoming topics, but such that the interlocutors remain respectful and above reproach. Seasoned speech prevents the conversation from taking on a debasing tone, and therefore, it is honoring to God. All Christian discourse must be suitable to the believer’s profession of faith; it must be savory, discreet, judicious and praise-inviting to God. This is of utmost importance, because if Christian speech loses its effectiveness any possible future information offered will be received with derision or mistrust. Unseasoned or diminished speech becomes fodder for conjectures about the Faith, which unfairly characterize God and further erode the opportunities for the sharing of the Word of Truth.
Though the topic of conversation may not be “grace” all the time, it must always be proffered with grace. And though the matter of discourse may be about the common, it still must be becoming. Grace itself is the element or the quality which “salts” all communications. Grace is the preservative agent that keeps discourse pleasant, with a vivacity that enlightens and promotes good will. Care must be afforded to the taming of the tongue, for with it fires can be kindled that devour even a vast and deep forest.
There is a reason for circumspection and grace when dealing with unbelievers, as it should be, for the aim thereof is God, and the furtherance of His kingdom. All that is done by the members of His Church ultimately redounds to Him and His fame. Not in vain did the Apostle remind them earlier in the same letter to put away things like “obscene talk from their mouth,” among other undesirables, but called them to robe themselves with the “new self,” which in the course of its growth, is renewed according to the image of its Creator. Therefore, the “word of Christ” must be cultivated so that it may dwell in the believer’s heart richly. This awareness promotes an attitude of sober humility, that all that the believer does whether in “word or deed” is done in the mane of the Lord Jesus.
Taming the tongue or moderating speech attracts attention from those outside the Faith. It may provoke them to be inquisitive about the believer’s consistent mode of speech. To be sure, this does not mean that all speech has to be a show of knowledge or erudition, but rather its elegance must be from grace. Be ready, therefore, to give an answer. Be ready to share with truthfulness in all circumstances and occasions. The believer’s speech must be abundant in wisdom as in grace in order to entertain and answer all questions as best as can be, and gently and calmly correct adversarial opinions and allegations against the Faith. With seasoned speech, the believer gives the reason for his faith, shows the unreasonableness of objections in a manner advantageous to his cause and foments the least prejudice against him.
“In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” I Peter 3: 15.