Colossians 4:5-6, “5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
Mahatma Gandhi was the leader who secured India’s independence from the British in the twentieth century. He was once asked why he would not convert to Christianity, even though he professed admiration for Jesus. His answer was, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Perhaps you find it easy to ignore Gandhi’s words quoted above because he had a deficient view of Christ. After all, he saw Jesus as only a nonviolent social reformer. It’s also very easy to suggest non-Christians should not judge Jesus’ claims about Himself based on His disciple’s deeds, although, this observation is not without merit. Unbelievers whether we like it or not, do base their views of Christianity on the behavior of professed disciples of Jesus. To that end, they use our hypocrisy, to justify their rebellion against the Creator.
We must hear the words of others, especially, as it pertains to how well or not, we are doing at following the Lord Jesus. The issue is not whether we fail to meet the standard set forth for disciples in the Scriptures. The reality is none of us, will ever perfectly follow the Lord Jesus, and the world should not expect you and me as disciples to do so (1 John 1:8-9). The sad reality is you, and I often do not admit our failures to follow Jesus. We would be best served by eating a heavy dose of humble pie, acknowledging that while we are saints, we are also sinners, in desperate need of the grace of God. And this point is vital because in Colossians 4:5 Paul says, “walk in wisdom toward outsiders.” The grace of God is very easy to learn but takes wisdom to know how to apply and proclaim which is why you, and I are not to create obstacles to the truth in the hearts and lives of non-Christians.
While speaking with people about the judgment to come due to their sin is difficult, honesty, love, and humility are to be the driving force behind such proclamation. In doing so, we may fall into the trap of being more concerned about how we come across and then, never talk with people about sin. We may even be afraid of being viewed as self-righteous, so we forget the grace of God shown to us, when we are undeserving, which is always, and then treat people as if they are so unclean Jesus could never forgive them of their sin and make them new creations in Christ alone.
While it takes wisdom to preach and live the gospel, we must also be mindful of making the best use of the time given to us by the Lord (Colossians 4:5). We may perhaps lose our sense of urgency for the gospel, regularly, thinking people have endless opportunity to believe on the name of the Lord Jesus. Yet, Jesus could truly could return at any time. And this should renew our sense of urgency, and lead us to pray fervently for the lost to be won to the Lord Jesus.
When we read the New Testament, we learn how the freedom the gospel brings should make Christians the most engaging and loving people around. Paul’s teaching in Colossians 4:6 is vital to the Christian life. The Koine Greek words that are behind “speech,” “gracious,” and “salt” (logos, charis, and halas, respectively) are used together in first-century literature to refer to speech that is gracious and attractive — winsome, even witty words that are also to be spoken in a humble manner. The Apostle uses the words to refer to the proclamation of the gospel to the outside world and how it should capture the gospel’s excitement to answer non-Christians legitimate questions. This same teaching is the point of 1 Peter 3:15, which focuses on gentle speech that presents and defends the gospel of the Lord Jesus in a winsome and respectful way.
In contemporary evangelicalism, it’s hip to think that one must act like the world but that is not what it means to be faithful to the Lord, nor what it means to live before the face of God with integrity. As Christians, we should grow to understand not only the gospel but also its implications. After all, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:10 after giving the greatest presentation of the gospel in the Scriptures, which Paul then says by the grace of God, I am what I am. That means, by the grace of God, we do not have to pretend we are more than we are, nor do we have to think we need to be smarter than we are. Instead, we need to be ourselves, growing in grace, daily repenting of sin because we have trusted in the finished and sufficient work of Jesus. All that to say, the New Testament has much to say about our life and our speech, including here in Colossians 4:6. Our life and speech should be of such quality in Christ to reflect our growth and demonstrate our progress in the grace of God.
In Jesus’ excellent teaching in the parables demonstrates the kind of speech Paul is talking about in Colossians 4:6. Jesus’ words were memorable; they had a quality about them that made them memorable, illuminating, and caused people to follow Him. Even so, Jesus never pandered to the crowds, never watered down his message, even though many people were turned away by his teaching. Whether in living or preaching the gospel, Christians today must learn to follow Jesus in not only His example but also must daily submit to His Lordship, since now they have been empowered through the Holy Spirit to witness to these truths in their own lives and ministries today to the glory of God.