Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude. Don’t forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I’m locked up in this jail. Pray that every time I open my mouth I’ll be able to make Christ plain as day to them.
Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. — Colossians 4:2-6, The Message
As Paul comes to the end of this little letter to the church at Colosse, he encourages them to pray, to pay attention to the world with gratitude, and to bring out the best in others in a conversation.
This morning I have been thinking about Doubt on Tap tonight. Our conversation topic is going to be about why our current crises have caused division as opposed to bringing us together. I am struck that this bit about bringing out the best in others in a conversation has something to say in the matter.
I wonder, do those of us who seek to follow Christ have this as our goal?
In the more literal translations like the NRSV or the NIV we see the translation, “so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.” This is tied to the statement of, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt.”
I think that Peterson gets to the heart of it. He allows the imagery of seasoned with salt have its full way with what Paul was writing. Properly salted food tastes its best when compared to under salted or over salted food.
In our day it seems that we Christians tend to over salt or under salt and as a result we spoil everything. The under salt folks don’t want to say anything that might make someone uncomfortable. These are the folks that if you have a booger hanging out of your nose would politely ignore it. The over salt folks, don’t care about bringing out the best in another, all they care about is winning. These are the people who would point and yell at the top of their lungs, “Hey look, Johnny has a giant booger hanging out his nose!” Then there are those trying to properly salt the conversation. They are willing to engage fully. They speak truthfully but lovingly. They listen and seek to understand more so than just simply winning a conversation. These people would gently come up to you and whisper in your ear, “My friend, you have a booger hanging out of your nose.”
When we lose the goal, the flourishing of our neighbor, then we have lost our way. If we lose the way, then we have in a very real sense lost Christ. Christ never loses us. Christ is always right there with us, but in our desire to not make waves or to simply win, we lose sight of Christ.
Tonight, I am going to be more intentional about trying to bring the best out of my conversation partners. I hope that I can grow in this area of my life. I desperately want to be a person who helps others flourish. How about you?