Talking with outsiders
No one likes a “know-it-all”. Generally speaking, people do not mind if someone else has more knowledge, but the way a person handles themselves in light of that additional knowledge can make or break relationships. Whether it’s among strangers or siblings, classmates or co-workers, no one appreciates being talked down to. The subject matter could be of small consequence or something really important, but how something is communicated is as important as what is being communicated.
For those of us that have been following Christ for a length of time, there is a tendency toward smugness that will cause problems. When we get comfortable going through the motions of living the “Christian life” instead of focusing on our relationship with God, we grow stale. Our mindset and interactions with others will twist until we end up presenting a conceited, self-righteous version of Christianity.
A telling symptom of this stale-ness is found in how we interact with those outside of our Christian family. What is our general attitude toward non-Christians? While we know that they need Jesus, do our actions and attitudes invite them toward Jesus or push them away? Do we speak at them with a lot of Christian-ese? Do we belittle them because of their sin?
After spending most of his letter describing the wondrous relationship we now have with God and praising the Colossian believers for their great love for everyone in God’s family, Paul took a moment to give them a warning:
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.
Those outside the faith need our wisdom and our gracious speech, not arrogant attitudes and put-down talk. Being “better off” doesn’t make us “more important”. In fact, many of the Bible’s authors gave warning against such self-righteous thinking.
Instead, gracious speech comes from a grateful mindset. That’s why Paul has spent so much time writing about the greatness of Christ and the priority He should have in our lives. When we have our relationship with God in its proper place, then our interactions with outsiders will begin to look and sound a lot like Jesus’ interactions with others.
Looking and sounding like Jesus will draw a lot of attention, people will take notice of the difference. In order to be ready to answer each person, we should take the same attitude Daniel had when God told him the meaning of the king’s dream:
As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but in order that the interpretation might be made known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.
Can you hear his humility? Can you see how Daniel shifted the focus from himself and gave the credit to God? When we have the opportunity to share the gospel with others, we should have the same attitude:
I’m not a Christian because I’m better than anyone else. One day, someone told me that God loves me enough to die for my sins. He loves you, too. I’m just glad that I get to be the one to tell you about it.