Evangelism Re-Defined: Seasoned with "Salt"
Before we get in to the text and start digging around, let me ask a question: How good are you at picking up on non-verbal cues?
Non verbal cues are the subtle facial expressions, body language and gestures that tell you what someone is really thinking even when they may not be speaking.
Most of us have at least some experience with these kinds of things.
Just a hunch.
How can you tell if someone is lying?
"They're a politician and they're talking..." probably went through your head right then. It went through mine. There's something to that, to be sure.
What about this? Think about a moment when someone communicated their faith to you without saying a word.
Recently, I was in a fast food restaurant and I saw a young woman sitting down to eat her hamburger and fries. She paused for a moment and prayed silently in her booth. I've been in the airport on numerous occasions and seen people reading their Bibles or a Bible study guide. Many of us have probably witnessed Muslims praying on their prayer rug in public places or an orthodox Jew dressed in traditional garb.
You can easily pick up clues about someone's faith without their having to tell you anything. And for those of us who call ourselves Christians we believe that we can preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those around us with our very lives.
Which brings us back to something we mentioned earlier in this series: If you are preaching a sermon with your life, what kind of a sermon is it?
The truth of the matter is that most of the sermons that Christians "preach" may not be all that... engaging, relevant, coherent, consistent, biblical, moral, upright...
It stings, doesn't it, to hear the truth.
Now let's dig into the text: Colossians 4:5-6
5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyoneLast week we discovered that If you call yourself a Christian, you are a missionary with a mission field.
What I want us to take away from this teaching is simply this:
Christians who are missionaries "season" their lives so that other people can taste Jesus better.
In this letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul wants his readers to do the following:
First, he wants to them to make the most of every opportunity to witness to outsiders.
In the ancient Greek, the phrase "make the most" is in middle voice, which according to Greek scholars indicates "personal interest." Further, when Paul speaks of "outsiders" here it doesn't have the negative sort of feel that tends to offend our post-modern sensibilities on inclusion. He means people who aren't Christians, or who are nominal or misguided Christians.
So basically what Paul is saying here is that we will have many opportunities to witness to people who don't know Jesus, and we need to take a personal interest in each one of them. I should mention that this also includes Christians who have lost their faith, become unChurched, were hurt by the Church, etc.
We need to take it personal. So how does that work?
This brings us to Paul's second point: He tells the Colossians that they need to have conversations full of grace and speech seasoned with salt.
Christians have the most unbelievable message of grace and peace possible. It is transforming and life giving. But it doesn't matter how theologically correct your message is... if it's delivered without passion, and authenticity it will fall flat.
I have never understood how Christian pastors can stand before their congregations and deliver dry, boring, lifeless sermons that are read word-for-word from a manuscript. Show some life!
I have also never understood why so many Christians want to beat their listeners down with doctrine and theology---to prove why "they" are wrong and "we" are right. That's not an authentic witness.
This brings us to the third point that Paul makes: Know how to answer everyone.
What Paul wants his readers to understand is that you should take it personal, you should be passionate and authentic, but you need to care deeply about others. People need to know that you care about them and their needs before you start sharing your faith. You earn the right to preach with your life and your words by demonstrating that you love people---as they are with no strings attached.
The key to all of this is salt. In case you were wondering when we would come back to the sermon title... this is it.
How does salt function?
It adds flavor. It preserves. It's in the water that covers most of the earth. It's in our tears. It can help freeze ice cream, or make your blood pressure rise.
In this particular case, though, we can rightly assume that Paul is speaking of salt as a seasoning---something that makes things taste better, brings out the flavor.
But there is a cultural understanding of how salt was featured in the covenant between God and the Hebrew people that is both interesting and relevant to our discussion here.
In Numbers 18:19 we hear about the Covenant of Salt. Salt was required in many sacrifices, and signified the permanence of the covenant between God and his people. Despite the many ways that the Hebrew people broke their end of the covenant, God's love and his desire for relationship remained. This is signified by the presence of salt in the sacrifice.
So for Paul it could have been that he understood his use of salt as a metaphor here as much more than just rightly "seasoned" speech. Maybe Paul was hinting that by seasoning their words with salt, Christians also bore witness to the very permanent, undying, unchanging love of God.
Let's return to our point... Christians who are missionaries "season" their lives so that other people can taste Jesus better. We need to share our story. We need to preach our story even when we aren't speaking. We need to have the Covenant of Salt be present in our story. And by now you are thinking... "This really doesn't make sense at all." Stick with me.
Do you remember your own story of redemption? When did Jesus transform your life? What became different afterward?
We need to learn how to take the opportunities to witness that we are given. To take a personal interest in the people God places in our path---Christians and nonChristians. We need to be full of grace. And we need to have the sermons we preach with our lives and our words so seasoned with God's faithfulness, God's redemption, God's love for us that people will say, "I want some of that!"
You might be saying, "But how do I do this? I am shy... I am fearful... I can't talk to people..."
When you truly care about the people you encounter... and if you are open to being used by the Holy Spirit... that fear will fall away.
And then anyone who is near you will be able to taste Jesus, and know that he is good.