Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Colossians 4:6).
When we read this, our thoughts run to the end and land on how we ought to answer, and we believe all that grace and salt stuff in the beginning is just our duty to others. Be prepared to talk to anyone about the gospel, we think. Season your speech for the outsiders (Colossians 4:5). Make it desirable, medicinal, valuable. Check, check, and check.
But that is not what this verse says. There is a cause, and there is an effect:
Let your speech be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know…
Grace and salt are not the substance of our answers. They are the source of them.
Grace and salt are not our answers to outsiders. They should season our conversations with insiders.
The grace and salt are for us.
Speech begins on our own lips. It’s we who have to savor it and believe it — we who have to partake of truth and love on our own tongues and in our own hearts — we believers who have to share a daily mind-blowing, mouth-watering meal of the gospel in order to be ready to explain hunger and thirst and true satisfaction to those who do not yet know.
The Word of truth has to taste good to us first — has to fill us up first — has to be a constant part of our conversation first. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks… (Luke 6:45).
All of the metaphors served up about salt are still quite true — it heals, it flavors, it makes us thirst, it will cost us. To be someone who knows how we ought to answer each person, we have to speak of the blandness and hunger of our sin and our flimsy solutions in order to shout with joy about the banquet set before us by the cross of Christ (Luke 14:16-24).
As Jesus says, we are the salt, and we must stay salty, or we will be worthless as witnesses (Matthew 5:13). We will never be ready for questions unless we continually remind each other of the Answer.
Some places to start:
- Practice daily confession and repentance — and not just in your head. We cannot hunger and thirst after righteousness if we are filled with and festering over our own sin. We cannot appreciate grace if we never speak of our need for it with others.
- Substitute the gospel for gossip. If our speech with each other must be seasoned and gracious, we begin our lives as witnesses by showing grace for and about our fellow followers of Christ. Their sin becomes a cause to rejoice in His endless grace (Romans 5:10-11, 20-21).
- Celebrate Christ regularly with other believers. This is what corporate worship is meant for — not programs or politics or just places to connect — but a chance to feast together on the good news of Jesus, to be tell each other of His grace, to proclaim together that it is He who has saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy (Titus 3:5).
You will only know how you ought to answer each person if indeed you have tasted that the Lord, He is good (Psalm 34:8, I Peter 2:3).