As Christians, what should our interactions with others look like on a conversational level? In Colossians 4:6, Paul tells us how to come across conversationally:
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Here are a few reflections on how we should approach conversations with others:
Our speech should be normal.
You can and should come across as a human being and not as a Christian robot. Ever had an interaction with Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses who have come by your door? Avoid being like them - robotic in their presentation. Talk to others with genuineness and authenticity, as one real human being talks to another.
Our speech should be favorable.
Let your speech (all of your speech) be favorable, winsome, and truthful. Let what comes out of your mouth be gentle, loving, and thoughtful. There’s really not a lot of room for cutting sarcasm here, is there?
Paul wrote to the Ephesian church that they should let no unwholesome talk come out of their mouths, but only what is useful for building others up according to their needs and that it may benefit those who listen (Eph. 4:29). This means, if you’re a believer who thinks its okay to use crass or vulgar language, you’re in error and you need to stop. Using the language of the world doesn’t somehow make you more relevant to them—it actually weakens your testimony. This would also include speaking with a demeaning or annoyed tone toward others.
Our speech should be interesting.
Salt is used for two main purposes, the first of which is to give food flavor. Food that has been appropriately seasoned with salt just tastes better! So what Paul is saying is this: if you have been supernaturally saved, transformed, and brought into an ongoing relationship with the living God of the univer, you shouldn’t come across to others as a lame, boring, bland person.
There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be absolutely excited about Jesus Christ. That excitement should spill over and permeate every single area of our life, especially our interactions and conversations with others. We, above all other people, should speak in an interesting, stimulating, yet sensitive way that will attract others and make them want what we have.
Our speech should be beneficial and purifying.
The other purpose salt can be used for is to prevent corruption, thus preventing food from spoiling. This means, if we have speech that is seasoned with salt, we will speak in such a way as to purposefully purify conversations. Ever been amongst a group of people who are talking and one of them says something that’s really crass? What did you do? A lot of people might either laugh or, if they feel awkward, they might turn red and clam up.
As Christians we can intentionally guide conversations away from corruption. That takes intentionality, but it’s not hard. All it takes is guiding the conversation towards something more beneficial and edifying.
Here’s another example: if someone approaches you and starts gossiping or speaking slanderously against someone else, what should you do? Well, most people indulge them. But not us! Not Christians. We’re seasoned with salt. We’re commanded by God to season that conversation with godly flavor. That means graciously and gently rebuking the person, and changing the subject to a more uplifting and encouraging conversation.
Our speech should be others-focused.
Ever met someone who just talks too much? Sometimes it’s hard to get a word in! If we as Christians are others-focused, that means we’re probably not the ones doing most of the talking. A Christian who communicates well must be a good listener who doesn’t dominate conversations with so many words.
After we’ve listened, we need to know how to answer people’s questions. What these words in Colossians 4:6 are really getting at is our ability to speak and interact with all different types of people. That’s important, right? I’m not necessarily talking about using the same vocabulary or terminology that others use, but rather having the ability to speak to them in an appropriate way.
Younger people, do you know how to interact with those who are older than you? Do you know how to treat older men as if they were your father and older women as your mother, as Paul tells Timothy to do? Are you willing to approach an older person and seek their counsel?
Older folks, let me ask you a question. Are you able to treat younger men as sons and younger women as daughters? Are you willing to take a younger person under your wing and teach them how to be a disciple of Jesus? A teenager doesn’t talk to an 80-year-old man the same way he talks to kid at school. And an 80-year-old man doesn’t talk to a teenager the same way he talks with his retired friends when they meet for coffee on Saturday mornings.
Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone and learn how to interact with people? Even those who are different than you? Since we have been saved by and testify to the Gospel of Christ, we should speak in such as way as to represent Him well in our conversations.