We are commanded by St Paul in Colossians to walk in wisdom toward outsiders, letting our speech always be gracious, so that we may know how to answer each person (Col. 4:5).
While the truth remains the same and unchanged no matter the conversation – it can be presented in a variety of ways, some more edifying than others depending on the context. We see this in our Lord’s ministry and how he spoke to the Pharisees contrasted with how he spoke to contrite sinners.
Just like there are different tools for different jobs, there are different ways of speech for different conversations. For one person, you might need to use a rhetorical chainsaw to chop them down a peg, but often for others a rhetorical bandage is required to heal their gaping wounds. And it takes wisdom to know which tool to use.
But notice that regardless of the tool, St Paul says our speech is always to be gracious. Even the strongest rebuke should come from a heart that loves the person we are interacting with.
Because the evangelical church today is currently stuck in the “nice” ditch, our temptation here as we seek to be faithful will be to overcorrect and become harsh, uncaring, unloving, and lacking grace toward unbelievers.
Hear this: it is not cowardice to be kind in a conversation. It is not weak to be sensitive to what a person really needs to hear and how they need to hear it. It isn’t a sin to be nuanced. Yes… nuance, rightly used, is good and necessary.
The gospel itself is a suitable stumbling block for the world, there is no need to create more of our own with unnecessary sharp and careless words.
So as we go about the work of seeking reformation and revival in our town, in our nation, and across the earth—we should ask the Lord for wisdom in our conversations, so that we may gather together a great harvest for him.