Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:5-6). Words are the primary way we communicate to each other. Each time we open our mouths to speak to someone, whether to an individual or a group, we convey our thoughts, feelings, emotions, intentions, and attitudes. We do this not only by what we say but also how we say it. Words are a powerful force. It’s no wonder James wrote, “The tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire” (James 3:5). Whether we realize it or not, others—unbelievers especially—are watching, even listening to us to see if we truly live out that which we say we believe. This is why Paul wrote, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders.” For this reason, he says, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt.” This means we are to speak only what is spiritual, wholesome, fitting, kind, sensitive, complimentary, gentle, truthful, loving, and thoughtful. Our speech should result in God being glorified and others being blessed. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
I will be the first to admit that my speech is not always gracious. This would include speech in my head before it ever reaches my tongue. It is a constant struggle. It is part of the “good fight of faith” that Paul wrote about to young Timothy (see 1 Tim. 6:12). It is the primary reason the Bible repeatedly reminds us of the importance of holding the tongue before speaking. Psalm 39:1 says, “I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue. I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle while the wicked are in my presence.” Sounds a lot like Colossians 4:5-6, doesn’t it? I was recently reminded of this ongoing struggle when I learned of some unnecessary and unkind words that were said about me by a fellow believer. My first reaction was “speech in my head” that was neither gracious nor edifying. This response, although natural, was clearly sinful on my part, as even our thought life is to honor Christ. But my second response I would like to think was a little more righteous. It was a two-fold response. I was angry because the words that were said were said in the company of people that included those Paul would describe as “outsiders.” Such speech sets a very poor example for those outside the body of Christ. But I was also reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthian believers, “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” (1 Cor. 6:7) His point is clear—forgive, forget, and move on. And, based on Colossians 4:3, we might add an additional point—pray. Paul writes, “Praying at the same time for us as well, […], so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ.” Based on all that the Bible says about speech, I have concluded the purpose for Christian speech is threefold: (1) to edify others, (2) to praise God, and (3) to proclaim the Gospel. If what we say or think about saying doesn’t fall within the purview of those three statements, then it’s best to keep our mouths shut. That’s good advice for us all!
An Eighth Century Irish proverb says, “A person should not speak evil of, or harshly reproach another, nor should he put anyone to the blush. Never should he violently rebuke anyone or carry on a conversation with a boorish person, and his speech at all times should be noted for his lack of boastfulness.” That’s just another way of saying, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” The Lord is going to return soon for His Church. There are a lot of outsiders, all of whom will be left behind to face the terrors of God’s wrath. I would hate to think that my speech might be the reason some of these “outsiders” ultimately choose to turn a deaf ear to the Gospel message. Therefore, may our speech be edifying and Christ-honoring, so that it may serve to advance the Gospel to those who are outside the body of Christ. “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29). Let all of us who name the name of Christ determine to always speak with grace as together, we “fight the good fight of faith.”
You are welcome to leave comments and you don't have to necessarily agree with me. However, I expect a civil tone and charitable spirit. We can disagree with one another without being disagreeable. "Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt." (Colossians 4:6)
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