It matters. It really does. The longer I live, the more I interact with others, and the more I grow older in life, the more I seed HOW I say something is as important as WHAT I say. This is especially true when I’m dealing with people who have just met me. This is not easy for me because I am naturally sarcastic. I know, I know, I’m a priest, I’m supposed to be better than that. But what can I say? It doesn’t do me any good to lie.
Wisdom demands that my speech be affected by that wisdom. Especially if I’m going to be one who bears witness to Christ and His love for everyone. The discipline of paying attention to HOW you say something matures your ability to really communicate well! It is an important skill!
But how do you learn this wisdom? And what should motivate me to want to learn this wisdom and to practice this way of speaking to everyone?
Look at our lesson in Colossians 4:5-11, 14-18:
Brethren, conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer every one. Tychicos will tell you all about my affairs; he is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, and with him Onesimos, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of yourselves. They will tell you of everything that has taken place. Aristarchos my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions if he comes to you, receive him), and Jesus who is called Justos. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you. Give my greetings to the brethren at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you read also the letter from Laodicea. And say to Archippos, “See that you fulfill the ministry which you have received in the Lord.” I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my fetters. Grace be with you. Amen.
Colosse was a city in Asia Minor and in the same area as the cities mentioned in the Book of the Revelation. St. Paul had planted that church during one of his missionary journeys and now he is writing the parish from prison. This is probably during his first imprisonment and during the same time, he wrote Ephesians and Philemon.
What is so interesting is we get the names of several people connected to Paul and the sense that these relationships are vital to Paul’s spiritual growth and leadership. But that is always the case. It is only after the West got captured by the exaltation of reason that we fell into the delusion that Faith can be merely a philosophical pursuit. This is where we get the secular world constantly telling us that our religion needs to be “private.” But real faith is never “private.” It always forms and shapes our relationships and our community. True faith will never be confined to a “private” matter and remain true faith. When you lock your faith away in your head, you stop being Christian and are now just one more “individual” instead of a real person.
That’s why St. Paul ends his letter to the Church at Colosse with these practical instructions.
He really hits home when he tells them and us to conduct ourselves wisely among strangers. And, if we do that, we will be able to make the most of our time. What an interesting idea! But it really does make sense. There is nothing more of a waste of time than poor communication and having to constantly correct misunderstandings. If we take the time to communicate as best we can, we save ourselves tons of trouble and tons of time trying to explain what we mean. He even goes further and commands us to “season” our speech with salt! In other words, let your words make people “thirsty” for more and let your words be gracious, or “filled with grace” so that your answers really penetrate the hearts, minds, and lives of your hearers! Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard for anyone who wants to communicate well!
St. Paul finishes up his wisdom to us with a display of his relationships around him. No one goes to heaven alone. But everyone goes to hell alone! The names of these persons in Paul’s life display the power of community to help shape us and grow the grace of God in our hearts! And it proves if you learn to communicate well, you’ll draw others to Christ!
St. Luke is a great example. He was from the area around the great city of Antioch in the First Century and he was a well-educated man being a doctor by trade. He heard the Apostle Paul preach about Christ and became a close companion of St. Paul after he converted to Christianity. His education meant he was a valued communicator of the Message of Jesus to the point God used his gifts to give us the Gospel of St. Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, both of which inspire us with their wisdom and the practical history of the earliest days of the Faith. St. Luke is called “the Evangelist” because he was an effective sharer of the Good News (The Evangelion). His ministry in support of St. Paul meant he had a powerful helping ministry in the spread of the Gospel all over the Roman Empire. St. Luke’s recurring symbol in Orthodox iconography is that of the calf, the symbol of Christ’s sacrificial love St. Luke wrote so powerfully about in his Gospel.
Today, how are you communicating? Do your words make folks want to hear more? Are they gracious and inviting? This spiritual discipline of communicating well and Christ-like is always worth the effort. And the best way to develop this discipline is to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. As a disciple of the Word of God, with Paul, you illuminated all the earth and dispelled the gloom in writing Christ’s divine Gospel.