Seasoned with Salt

“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6).
Languages are difficult and frustrating to me. I don’t learn other languages easily, and since I travel and work in a number of different countries, I find that I am often where I don’t speak the language. I am dependant upon translators, “non-verbal communication,” the other person’s limited knowledge of English, or the few words or phrases I may have picked up. Communication is difficult at best. I have often wished for the Apostles’ gift of speaking in tongues (Acts 2:1-13), but must struggle as best I can.
More important, however, than knowing how to speak the language of another country is the ability to speak with grace. Part of the skill of “walk(ing) in wisdom toward those who are outside” (Colossians 4:5), learning to speak with grace is specifically enjoined to Christians that we might properly represent Christ and his Gospel to an unbelieving world. It is not so much knowing what to say as it is having the ability to say it so that it will be received well.
Grace is often defined as “unmerited favor,” meaning God’s treatment of sinful mankind, not with what we deserve, but with what we need. There is another way the word is used, however. That is as a quality or characteristic of loveliness and charm. We describe a good hostess as “gracious” or say of someone, “She has a graceful walk.” It is in this latter sense that Paul calls for graceful speech. Our words, and our manner while speaking them, should have a loveliness about them. They should attract others positively, and lead to a welcome reception.
So often we do just the opposite when we speak. We say things harshly, angrily, and thoughtlessly. We threaten, warn, and antagonize. Others are repelled, not attracted, by what they hear from our lips. When we speak unkindly, it scarcely matters whether what we say is true. Even if it is, it will still cause others to turn away from us rather than draw them nearer. How much better to speak kindly, considerately, with beauty in both tone and content of our message.
Along with grace, our speech is to be “seasoned with salt.” This is an interesting phrase in this connection. Though there are a number of ways it might be understood, I believe one implication is that there should be substance to our speech. In Ephesians 5:4 Paul forbids the use of “foolish talking” and “coarse jesting” as “not fitting” for Christians. We are to take life seriously and to be concerned with those things that are of eternal significance. As we speak with non-believers, our spirituality should be manifest. God should be glorified and his Kingdom exalted. Salt is a preserver and a seasoning. Its presence in food makes the food taste better, provides certain necessary nutrition, and helps preserve the food against contamination. Our speech should have that within it that provides protection from corruption, gives flavor to life, and meets the needs of the spirit.
Foreign language is a challenge. However if I can speak of God’s love in Christ Jesus, and if I can encourage faithful obedience to his will, I can communicate the eternal message of salvation. Nothing is more important than that.

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