Let every word you speak be drenched with grace and tempered with truth and clarity. Colossians 4:6 (TPT)
It does not take a genius to observe a lack of grace demonstrated in our world today. Speech in all segments of politics, education, science, society, and even sports is intentionally polarizing. There is minimal effort to find common ground.
Against this background, Paul’s words to us that our “speech always be seasoned with grace” should resonate among God’s people as we remember our calling and mission. Hopefully, we can be used to bring God’s grace to a troubled world. The purpose of speaking grace is: so that you will have the right response for everyone. Colossians 4:6 (NLT)
What Is Grace?
Ordinarily, defining a word as familiar as grace is not necessary. However, grace has many definitions, including approval, favor, mercy, pardon, privilege, and reprieve. For some, the prayer before meals is called grace. Specific royalty or religious figures are called “your grace.” We use the word grace to describe things that are charming or attractive.
The Greek word charis frequently is translated as grace in the New Testament. And it indicates favor from the one who gives. We often hear grace defined theologically as “God’s unmerited favor.” In whatever way we define grace, Paul tells us that our conversations, that is, our speech, should always be full of grace. We know from experience that it is not easy to speak grace in a fallen world. Is there a way we learn always to speak grace?
Grace Is Not Approval
An obstacle that we must overcome is the fear that speaking grace is seen as approval. This fear is not without merit because religious people accused Jesus, who always communicated with grace, of speaking to the “wrong kind of people” or of being in alignment with the devil.
Jesus had grace for people from all segments of society. He did not fear for his reputation as he spoke grace to the Samaritan woman. Jesus was not concerned about what people were saying as he talked to the woman accused of adultery. The Son of God received people from all walks of life and spoke grace to them.
Speaking grace carries the risk of alienating those with pharisaical dispositions. To those more concerned about status and reputation, the risk of speaking grace into someone’s life causes too much trouble. Jesus constantly sets aside his standing among men to bring grace to the people’s lives. Critics will always be critics, but we have received “the ministry of reconciliation.” Grace is not always tidy. It can be very messy.
Jesus was more concerned about speaking grace into people’s lives than preserving his reputation.
For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. Titus 2:11 (NLT)
It is more palatable to us to speak and extend grace to those whose sins are like our own. After all, in a way, speaking grace to someone who has sins like our own is, in effect, applying grace to ourselves. It feels satisfying and self-justifying.
It is much more challenging to speak grace into the lives of those whose sins appall us. There is an inclination toward judgment rather than grace. For example: “Grace for me, but judgment for you.” Instead of approaching people like Jesus, we choose the Old Testament prophet mode. Be very careful about prophet mode.
It takes a conscious effort to speak grace in every direction. Several years ago, while discussing this topic, we coined the term “Grace 360.” It is normal to want to offer grace to those we love, family and friends, but it takes the power of God operating in our lives through the Holy Spirit to enable us to look in other directions with compassion and grace.
We must not forget that God’s grace reached us while we were still sinners. But don’t take any of this for granted. It was only yesterday that you outsiders to God’s ways had no idea of any of this, didn’t know the first thing about the way God works, hadn’t the faintest idea of Christ. Ephesians 2:11–12 (The Message)
The best way to be in the proper frame of mind and heart is to speak grace wherever we are and with whomever we are with is to remember how God’s grace transformed us. We have a great responsibility. “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25:40 (NLT)
Speaking Grace Can Open a Door
The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction. Proverbs 16:21 (NIV)
To anyone who might be concerned that speaking grace might be misconstrued as an endorsement or approval, please allow me to set your mind at ease. We see grace as the key that opens doors for relationships and further understanding and instruction.
As we interact with people, we must remember that the Holy Spirit is there along with us. It is the Holy Spirit who “convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment.” To the woman in John 8, Jesus showed compassion and grace, but he did not stop at that point. Before they parted, Jesus said: “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:11 (NIV). Speaking grace may be the beginning, but it will lead to change when grace is allowed to do its work.
God wants people to surrender their lives of sin and shame and allow him to restore what the enemy has stolen from them. God is not limited in how he can transform lives, but speaking grace is an excellent way to open the door.
Even at the risk of our reputations, let us be prepared to always speak grace into the lives of those we meet. Freely you have received; freely give. Matthew 10:8 (NIV)