Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (ESV)
Let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (NIV)
Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. (NLT)
Gentleness In Action
When I was 17, I rear-ended someone. The moment it happened, I remember getting a rush of anxiety come over my body. Fear set in, as I had never been in this situation before. It didn’t help that the guy I hit was visibly angry as we pulled over and assessed the damage. As I got out of my car to talk to him, I remember my heart beating so fast. Was he going to scream at me? Would he try and fight me? I tried to apologize to him as he started to look at his tailgate, and to our surprise, he realized no damage had been done to his car! He looked up at my terrified expression, and his demeanor began to change completely. He turned to me and said so kindly, “Oh man, there’s no damage! Don’t worry at all; we’re all good here, bro!” At that moment, I think he knew how terrified I was, so he took it further and even hugged me. He continued, “Seriously, it's all good, man. We don’t need to get insurance involved. There is nothing wrong with my car. You’re alright, man.”
This memory has stuck with me so firmly because of one factor. I visibly saw gentleness in action. I saw a man turn from extreme anger to a calm loving presence. This is what marked me more than anything. This guy could have every reason to lash out at me, scream in my face, and tell me off, but instead, he saw a terrified young driver and chose a gentle response.
Talk The Talk
More than anything, this story shows us how we engage with others matters. In Colossians 4:6, Paul is speaking to the church about how we are to engage with outsiders hoping to show them the love of Christ and speak the truth of the gospel. That's right, we are talking about what it means to witness the loss. What does Colossians 4 teach us? It shows that our words matter. See, Paul knows that, as humans, we are constantly making judgments. We judge character, motive, truth, and goodness all the time. That being said, as followers of Jesus, we are called to gentleness because it is the entry point for the beauty of the gospel to flow through. When we lead with gentleness, we disarm people; we show them we have no agenda other than wanting their greatest good.
When we choose to be graceless with people, we only add fuel to a fire that isn’t leading anywhere good. Turn on the news and watch the latest political argument if you want proof. No true change comes when we meet angry people with anger. On the other hand, there is nothing more disarming than approaching someone who is fired up with gentleness. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says it this way, “The only way to overcome evil is to let it run itself to a standstill because it does not find the resistance it’s looking for.” I love this because it reminds us that we can overcome hostility with agape love. This is love in action, and that is what Paul means to embody gentleness.
Conversations With Flavor
Gentleness isn’t passive. We don’t stand back and disengage. We intentionally press forward with a gentle spirit fueled by love for another person. So what does this look like to enter into a conversation “seasoned with salt?” Well, salt speaks to flavor. When we season food with salt, we enhance the flavor and bring more out of it. In the same way, when we season our words with graciousness, we are bringing value and intentionality to every conversation. We are pointing people to Jesus with the intentional-gentle words we choose.
Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.
-Jesus, Mark 9:50b
Written by Ben Hesch