“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:6 (ESV)
Sometimes God’s Word can feel like an impossible order, don’t you think?
Take today’s verse for example: Paul tells us we are to let our words “always be gracious” (Colossians 4:6). The NIV actually reads “full of grace.” Full of it. As in, not just sometimes gracious. A full atmosphere of graciousness even when the conversations are hard.
And that's just about the moment when I admit I want to lie down on the floor and loudly declare, “But I am not Jesus!” Ugh.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes gracious speech seems impossible for me. When someone's hurtful words have landed like daggers in my heart, I want to defend myself. Maybe even attack back a bit. And point out how the other person is misunderstanding my intentions. Not offer them gracious words. And even my most enjoyable relationships have moments where this doesn't feel completely possible … Relationships are just messy.
I’ve been thinking about all of this as I’ve been on a recent journey of learning how to set and keep healthy boundaries in my relationships. It’s not easy. It’s hard to examine places of dysfunction, distress, distrust and maybe even destruction within relationships with those you love.
When we’re in a difficult relationship or even a destructive one that isn’t sustainable, especially if addictions are involved, there does need to be a measure of grace and compassion. Because sometimes what is actually driving unhealthy behaviors in people is underlying shame or a lack of peace deep inside. Many times it’s both.
What I’m not saying is that, because of grace and compassion, we condone or enable others' actions and stay in situations where there’s harm being done. But what I am saying is that, as we take a step back, we can consider having grace and compassion for whatever caused the original root of shame and chaos in their heart that then drove them to try to act and react in such unhealthy ways. We don’t want the hurt they’ve caused to make us betray who we really are. We aren’t cruel or mean-spirited, so we don’t want to bring any of that into our boundary setting.
I also want to have grace because I don’t have life so figured out that I never act and react in unhealthy ways. I have my own issues that I need to work on and work through with counseling. Learning to have grace and compassion appropriately, while still also having boundaries, continues to be one of my biggest lessons.
So how can we really be gracious without excusing away hurtful behavior we're experiencing or avoiding honest conversations we need to have?
We can bring truth into an atmosphere of grace. We can express what needs to be expressed, set a boundary that needs to be set, say what needs to be said and stay completely committed to the reality of truth.
But we can also foster it all in an environment of grace that never dishonors the other person. We can tell the hard truth, but we don't have to say it in a harsh way.
This doesn’t mean we don’t say the hard things or set boundaries. It means we recognize we want conflict resolution instead of conflict escalation.
So, yes, Paul's words to the Colossians remind us that our words should be gracious. But he also adds a clarifier that our words should be “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). In rabbinic tradition, this phrase would have been associated with wisdom. Paul was reminding the Colossians they were called to be people filled with godly wisdom. He wanted their words, and ours, to represent Jesus. And in order to do this, we can follow His model to pursue both grace and truth together.
I don’t know who puts grace to the test in your life or what conversations you need to be reminded to bring grace into. But I do know the Holy Spirit is willing to help us choose truth-filled words presented in a gracious way if only we will pause long enough to ask Him for help. Even as we have hard conversations and implement necessary boundaries, may our words reflect that we know Jesus, love Jesus and spend time with Jesus.
Father God, I want to pause for a moment and thank You for Your Son, Jesus. He could have held back His grace. But instead, He chose to pour out every single drop for me on the cross. So remind me that I give grace because I so desperately need it. Help me bring an attitude of grace into even the hardest of conversations. Give me wisdom in how to hold grace and truth together as I navigate difficult relationships in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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Is it unloving or selfish to set a boundary? Are Christians ever called to walk away from a relationship that’s no longer safe or sustainable? Lysa TerKeurst has asked these hard questions in the midst of her own relational struggles. But after countless hours of counseling intensives and extensive theological research that transformed the way she defines healthy relationships, Lysa has learned love can be unconditional … but relational access never should be. If you’re ready to gain the biblical wisdom to set boundaries that pave the way for peace you long for in your relationships, let Lysa’s new book, Good Boundaries and Goodbyes, be your new go-to guide. Buy now.
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FOR DEEPER STUDY
Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (NIV)
When do you struggle the most to use grace-filled, kind words? How has the Lord been helping you extend grace and compassion when it feels impossible? We'd love to hear from you in the comments.
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