Devotion for the Week...
I've been reading about grace a lot the past few weeks. First I reread Philip Yancey's What's So Amazing About Grace? Now I am reading Chuck Swindoll's The Grace Awakening. I highly recommend both books. Usually we focus on God's gift of grace to us, but these books will make you take a close look at yourself and at how you share grace with those around you. Yancey's book, especially, seems like it would be worth reading again every couple of years.
One thing I've been thinking about as I read is this verse from Colossians: "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Colossians 4:6). There are a few things that I find challenging in this verse.
First of all, this verse follows several others in which Paul writes about sharing the gospel of Jesus with outsiders, with those who don't believe in Him. Verse 5 says, "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity." Taken together, these verses tell me that we should always be ready to tell others about Jesus, that we should be alert for opportunities. I don't know about you, but I'm not so good at that. Unless I'm asked a specific and direct question, I often hesitate rather than speaking up about spiritual things with people who may not share my beliefs. I don't want to offend anyone. Truth be told, I don't want to seem weird. That may strike you as odd considering how openlyI share my faith here on my blog, but here I figure if you're not interested in spiritual things you just won't read the devotions. It's different when I'm face to face with someone. I struggle with knowing "how to answer everyone," especially when most people are not asking specific and direct questions.
Then there is the word always. "Let your conversation be always full of grace." Always is a pretty all-encompassing word, isn't it? There's not a lot of room to wriggle around a word like always. And there's no room around the original Greek word pantote, either. According to biblegateway.com pantote means "always, at all times, ever." If our conversation is to be always full of grace, then it seems like that means every conversation, with everyone, all the time. Sometimes it's easy to show grace in conversation - with people we like, when people are agreeing with us, when the sun is shining and we've had a good night's sleep. Other times it's not so easy - with people we don't like, when people disagree with us, when we're tired or sick, or when we're being asked to do something we don't want to do.
Unfortunately, it's also often easier to show grace to strangers and acquaintances than to those who are closest to us. If you're anything like me, you're more likely to snap at your children than at the grocery store cashier. If my conversation is to be always full of grace, then I need to watch how I react when Nathan comes wanting me to read to him just when I finally have a moment to myself to read my own book. Sometimes, even when I agree to read to him, my "I guess so" is not very gracious or welcoming, especially if it's accompanied by a sigh. Do you do that too? Do you do the right thing, but with the wrong attitude and that attitude is conveyed in your words?
And then there is gossip. People love to talk about other people, don't we? Sometimes that's okay, like when we're sharing good news: "They just got engaged!" Other times, it's not okay, like when we're fishing around for the inside story on some incident that has nothing to do with us, or when we're the ones sharing the inside story. Then there are times when gossip is cloaked as a prayer need: "Pray for them, would you, he had an affair...with his secretary...it was going on for two years before he was found out...now he wants a divorce and they're fighting over custody of the kids." Conversations that are full of grace have no room for gossip. Ephesians 4:29 says "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
The funny thing is, if we refrain from gossip, and if our words are pleasant even when situations may not be, those who do not believe in Jesus may be more likely to ask us questions about our faith. Certainly they will be more receptive to our answers if they find that our actions (and conversations) line up with what we say we believe.