Making a difference starts with being full of grace.
How can Christians remain faithful to the Gospel when the culture grows increasingly averse to the Church? How do we lovingly respond to our neighbors who do not know Christ?
The apostle Paul offers insightful guidance to first century Christians who often endured hostile circumstances in the Greco-Roman world: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” He then tells them what wisdom looks like: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:5-6).
Look at Paul’s choice of words and the order he arranges them.
Full of Grace
What does “full” mean? It means no room for anything other than what is already there – even overflowing. What does Paul want Christians to be full of? Grace! Let the way you speak to outsiders be overflowing to the brim with undeserved kindness, gentleness, generosity, and love.
Seasoned with Salt
I happen to like salt. Salt is a great seasoning, and it can make most food taste better. But too much salt is not good; too much salt is bitter. If you put too much salt on your food, the natural taste of the food gets drowned out. A little bit of salt goes a long way—use it in moderation, and it works. But if you make it the main course, it will ruin the whole meal. Salt is for seasoning.
Paul could not be more practical. When dealing with those outside the faith, “be full of grace and seasoned with salt.” Be full of overflowing kindness, humility, service, generosity, and love. Then, season that grace with the truth of the Gospel.
We cannot turn it around and expect it to be good. If we are full of salt and seasoned with grace, it is going to taste bitter. We may make our point, but we will not make a difference.
More than Just Making a Point
Recently, I heard Pastor Andy Stanley say that Christians are notorious for making points. We are very clear about what we are against, what lifestyle choices we think are wrong, and what we think needs to be changed in the world. In other words, we are pretty good at the “salt thing.” But when we communicate that “We don’t like what you do, and we don’t like you either,” we may make a point, but we will not make a difference.
We only make a difference when we are full of grace and seasoned with salt. The point is still made. We can still tell the truth. But when we add a holy, loving, generous, forgiving life overflowing with grace, the truth begins to seem beautiful instead of bitter.
On October 2, 2006, a troubled milkman named Charles Roberts walked into an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania. He dismissed all but ten young girls. He brutally shot all ten before he shot himself. Five of them died; five of them survived. It was a terrible, awful day that shocked the country. Not only was it terrible for the Amish community, but Roberts also left behind his wife Marie and their two young children.
The following Saturday, at the funeral for Charles Roberts, something truly amazing happened: Amish families filed in to support Marie and her family. They composed three-fourths of the people at the funeral that day.
They stood alongside her as she grieved. They offered forgiveness for what Roberts had done and embraced his family. They showed love to his children, even though they had lost their own children. They then proceeded to find ways to support them financially and emotionally after the funeral.
The world was in shock again, but this time for a different reason. It was because the world rarely sees that kind of love and forgiveness.
I know of very few people who make their point better than the Amish people did on that day.
Because of their grace-filled approach, seasoned with salt, they made a difference.
When it comes to our conversations with those outside the faith, I think Paul would give the same advice to Christians today. If we are going to be extravagant, be extravagant with grace instead of salt.
Be extravagant with mercy instead of with judgment.
Be extravagant with love instead of with indignation.
This is how we will accomplish more than simply making points. This is how we will make a difference.
David Busic is a general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.
Holiness Today, Jan/Feb 2018