No matter the situation or environment, all eyes are on me. Everyone who I come into contact with on a daily basis pays attention to my words and actions. This in no way implies paranoia on my part. The key point is that friends, family, clients and co-workers take notice of the things I say and do. Some keep score and some do not; however, each person pays attention at crucial points. This aspect of observing others and being observed by others has a direct bearing on my walk with Christ. Hear the following words from the apostle Paul:
“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).
One of the obvious takeaways from this text is a lifestyle marked by wisdom. To walk in wisdom requires more than hearing it or reading about it. Walking means doing it. There is an aspect of following Jesus where it is important to receive and listen to the word. Once I have taken in the word, then I must respond to it. Obedience to the word is wisdom walked out in my life and in the life of the church. I do not know how many years that the Lord has granted to me. All I know for certain is that the great commission remains in effect.
Because Paul has the heart of a pastor, he deals with the impact of words. He wastes no time in speaking in clear terms. He characterizes speech that livens up a person’s soul as seasoned with salt. This reminds me of those instances where I use salt to add a little zest while cooking a meal. The right amount of salt changes the complexion of the recipe for the better. Of course, too much salt overpowers the dish, but not enough fails to do anything to it. Paul applies this principle with respect to the believer’s discretion in what to say and do while living each day on display for the eyes of the world.
Many have heard the notion that a message’s content remains the same, but the forms of delivery change with the audience and environment. When it comes to speaking to others about Christ and his gospel, it is vital that I know my audience. This in itself is an act of grace and mercy toward those who hear. What this demonstrates is that I am paying attention to those listening to me. From Paul’s perspective, the Colossian Christians possess and demonstrate the grace of Christ in their speech. Their words have the ability to encourage, to bring gaiety to a gathering, and to draw men to Jesus. This last point is the foundation for grace-filled speech. My words either will invite people to Christ or to turn them away.
The harsh reality to this is that sometimes there is only one shot at making an impression. My words are key, and so is my demeanor. From my point-of-view, the audience is sharp, so that means speak to them at their level. In some ways, this means to become a student of those around me in order to learn different types rhetoric for communicating the same message. The apostle Peter wrote the following words: “…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV). I have been out of the academic setting for a decade, but I am still in school. The command from Paul and Peter is to be ready. Speak, but do it with grace and patience.