God’s Word tells us to, “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone” (Col. 4:5-6, NLT).
God expects you to speak with your unbelieving neighbors, friends, and co-workers with gracious, warm, and winsome words – all with the purpose of being able to “respond” to the questions or comments they may have about you or your faith in Christ. You must assume that unbelievers will be raising questions about your faith, questions that may be either neutral or controversial. An appropriate Christian response will communicate the content of the gospel, but it will also be done in a manner that will make the gospel attractive. This will take gracious speech. To help us in these conversations Colossians 4:5-6 gives us several characteristics of a gracious conversation.
Gracious conversation is kindness spoken.
We are told to “let [our] conversation be gracious….” We should add grace to our speech. That rules out all harshness, all criticism, all gossip, and all unkind, ungracious talk. It is said of the Lord Jesus that people marveled at the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth (Luke 4:22). Jesus is our model for life.
Gracious conversation is an evangelistic weapon.
Graciousness can overcome the reservations of unbelievers and make them more receptive to the gospel. Part of “live wisely among those who are not believers” calls for gracious words.
Gracious conversation is maximizing your time.
God’s Word says “make the most of every opportunity.” The first instruction after this is statement is to “let your conversation be gracious.” When your words are kind, considerate, encouraging, thoughtful, and helpful you are making the most of every opportunity with people.
Gracious conversation is appropriate for all circumstances.
Whether you are going through persecution, stress, difficulty, or injustice with your parents, spouse, children, believers, or unbelievers gracious words should come from your mouth. “Every opportunity” includes those times that you feel wronged, neglected, rejected, or overlooked – not just the easy opportunities.
Gracious conversation should be consistent.
The phrase “every opportunity” also implies consistency regardless of how we feel. We have learned to place a guard over our mouths when we feel grumpy, discouraged or angry. People can depend on us to be gracious in our conversation. Gracious words are the norm from our mouths.
Gracious conversation is attractive.
Some translations describe this as “seasoned with salt.” In our culture, salty language refers to conversation that is full of profanities and rudeness, but obviously that is not Paul’s meaning. The phrase was used to refer to witty, amusing, clever, and even humorous speech. Your saltiness will prevent you from being ignored as irrelevant bores. Kent Hughes describes this “seasoned with salt” as “never insipid or boring” and “not the dull, sanctimonious vocabulary that seems to be demanded in some church circles. It is thoughtful speech, words with content” (Hughes, 138). The follower of Jesus is neither one who only talks about spiritual things nor one with whom it is boring to talk to, but one who is a good listener and interesting conversationalist. Interesting conversation leads to relationship, and within that relationship questions about life come up. In addition, there are other implications about gracious words that are seasoned with salt:
- Gracious conversation, as salt, may sting. Seasoning your conversation with salt may hurt. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy” (NLT), meaning what a friend says may hurt at first but it is something we needed to hear. Often times we may need to have a gracious but honest conversation with someone about a sin in their life.
- Gracious conversation, as salt, can prevent corruption. Salt was often used as a purifying agent to preserve foods. Believers’ speech should act as a purifying influence, rescuing conversation from the filth that so often engulfs it. Christians must give an oral witness in such a way that they show disapproval of sin on the one hand and graciously seek to win sinners on the other. In essence, we must hate the sin and love the sinner at the same time. The Christian’s conversation should be a constant rebuke to those who use profanity and take the Lord’s name in vain.
- Gracious conversation, as salt, can add flavor to the conversation. The idea behind “attractive” is seasoned. The believer’s conversation should be seasoned, meaning acceptable and inoffensive. The words of a saved person should add charm and wit to the conversation.
- Gracious conversation, as salt, may create a spiritual thirst in others. Our talk should make people thirsty for the water of life: that is what Jesus’ conversation did for the woman at the well (John 4:15) and Nicodemus (John 3:4).
Gracious conversation does not show favoritism.
Gracious words are to be applied toward “everyone” whether it’s toward a close friend or an enemy.
Gracious conversation is suited to each person.
One type of response may be right for one person but not another. Notice God’s Word says that you will have “the right response for everyone” (Col. 4:5-6, NLT). Even though there are many evangelistic tools and techniques (such as the bridge illustration, the four spiritual laws, and testimonial), you will need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit on how and what you share. Regardless of the method you use you can have confidence when you are gracious in your sharing. Regardless of the method, the right response is always one marked by graciousness.