Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (NIV)
When the Christian church wants to make a statement about some issue, that statement can come across the wrong way. We seem to have all the answers, we seem to be known for what we oppose rather than what we support. Sometimes we are misinterpreted, at other times we bring such misunderstanding on ourselves.
This text provides a beautiful summary of the sort of speech we are to use, whether the “institutional” church or individual Christians are speaking. Paul wants us to be both wise and bold. Wise enough to know when to keep our mouths shut, yet boldly taking opportunities when they arise.
He also urges us to be gracious, which means kind and considerate and sensitive. Not abusive or harsh or condescending. And yet, our speech is to be seasoned with salt, meaning it is to be interesting, hitting the right notes, not insipid or vague.
Our challenge is to balance all this so we do not merely speak generalised niceties or come out guns blazing to squash our real or perceived enemies. Such a balance is virtually impossible on what we call “social media”, which is why we need to be wary of it. Also very difficult in public announcements or press releases.
Words matter, and the context within which we say them matters. How sad it would be if our careless words keep others from encountering Jesus, the Living Word.