No one has to look very far – generally, not even outside our homes – to understand that one of the biggest relational problems we have is the ability to communicate with one another. The reasons are myriad, and to explore them would require a book. Yet, an interesting observation of communication breakdowns (involving us) is that the misunderstanding and/or impasse is almost always the other person’s fault. How are we to correct the problem if that person was not tracking with us to begin with?
Paul gives us incredible advice in Colossians 4:6, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Immediately identifiable in these words is that Paul is addressing me, not the other person. I am not responsible for the way others conduct themselves, but I am completely responsible for my part. As impossible as it seems in the moment, I actually get to choose whether or not to take offense to what is said, AND how I respond. Jesus modeled this in His silence to false accusations, and genuine answers to real questions preceding His torture and death. We often protest against His perfect example because He is God and naturally operates in supernatural power. We conveniently forget that as His followers, He offers us His supernatural power (that we haven’t earned and don’t deserve) to do likewise. Therefore, if we are allowing the reality of Jesus’ life to impact ours, shouldn’t we be giving others the same grace He has extended to us?
Seasoning our conversations with salt can be very tricky. Salt does a variety of things, including preserving, enhancing, and healing. Paul was using salt as a metaphor for Truth that also preserves, enhances and heals relationships when administered in grace and love. Unfortunately, if Truth is present at all in conversations where emotions escalate, it is used as a weapon (like salt killing vegetation and leaving barren ground). When this happens, it is imperative to understand that person has triggered preexisting emotions in us, but he/she does not have the power to make us feel a certain way. We are solely responsible for our emotions. Only our Savior Who has known us intimately since before birth completely understands our emotional responses and the drivers, and is ready with healing and freedom, if we will seek Him for it. This constant redeeming work of Christ then permits us to put into operation Solomon’s advice: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Pr 15:1)
As if speaking Truth in grace and love is not hard enough, Paul exhorts us to always communicate this way…another impossibility for me. In actuality, I would like some time off for good behavior. There are instances where I just don’t want to be gracious. Additionally, all that self-discipline is a tremendous energy drain. In reality, I am trying to muscle my way through; I’m in charge, not God. Jesus, in facing the horror of crucifixion, aligned Himself with the Father by proclaiming, “Not My will, but Yours be done.” (Mk 14:36) This statement is powerful in resetting the Authority structure. If Jesus as God-the-Son, submitted Himself to God-the-Father at such a critical juncture, how much more should I be willing to submit myself to Jesus’ Lordship in far less critical issues? It is only in aligning myself with Him that I receive His power and authority: “authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.” (2 Cor 13:10)
Lord, please redeem me as a people-builder through good communication.