Richard Weirich

How to Handle Relationships with Unbelievers

How to Handle Relationships with Unbelievers

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Colossians 4:5-6

When I joined the Navy, I was introduced to a group of sailors known as Salts. The name originated from their life sailing on the salt water of the sea. They were known for their salty language, thus the expression, “Curse like a sailor.”

To be clear, the Apostle Paul’s admonition that our conversation was to be “seasoned with salt” is not the same as the seaman’s version.  Our conversation is to have a profound effect on the hearer with the goal of pointing them toward Christ.

Wisdom is to be employed in those conversations with those outside the faith. It begins with good conduct. If your words don’t conform with your actions, you’re wasting your breath.

Another important aspect of wisdom is sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Remember that line from the Kenny Rogers hit song that said, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away and know when to run.” The Spirit places us in positions to share our faith. He guides us in knowing what to say and how much. The Spirit also lets us know when it’s time to walk away; shake the dust from our sandals and move on.

We’re to “make the most of every opportunity.” Each of us has a story, situations in which God has helped in our lives. Our experiences in our walk with God help us relate to the struggles of others. It’s that commonality that God often uses to open the hearts and minds of the lost to His glorious message of redemption and hope.

Before mentioning salty conversation, Paul states our talk should be “full of grace.” That is to say we give them better than they deserve. When they’re not nice, you’re nice. You respond to their gruffness with gentleness, and to their unkindness with kindness.

It may be that God is laying the groundwork for future conversations. In the early stages, your role is to build a relationship and trust. Other times, you’ll be led to dispense with the small talk, and move onto the gospel. Many times you’re called upon to be the seed planter, and God will send someone else along later to water and nurture.

Conversation that is “full of grace” is helpful, caring, loving, and considerate. It’s not delivered with a scowl or self-indulgent. True enough, God has given you a personal testimony to share. But that doesn’t give you a license to brag and act as if you think of yourself as superior to the lost person. Come alongside non-Christians with humility.

Persuasive communication has been explained as two people with little in common living on separate islands. Standing on the shore of your island and yelling to the fellow across the water will only lead to more yelling. In order to win him over, you must meet him where he’s most comfortable, on his island. Then after building a relationship, you persuade him to get in your boat and come to your island where he can see things from your perspective. Before you can take him where you want him to go, you must learn something about where he is.

Now, back to the salt. Salt is that part of our walk with Christ that produces thirst in the hearer. It conveys the message, “It has given flavor in my life, and it can do the same for you.”

Salt also is a preservative, which is what our message accomplishes. It insures an eternal relationship with the Lord in His heaven.

And we shouldn’t forget that salt stings when applied to a wound. The message that sin separates the sinner from God can bring someone to their knees in remorse and repentance. It can also bring them to their feet and out the door.

Paul concludes our focus text by telling us to be prepared to give an answer to anyone. So, what questions might they ask? Here are some possibilities: Why are you so cheerful? If you’ve been through what I’m going through, how come you’re so happy? How can you be so calm? I’ve been in this place all morning, and you’re the first person who’s taken time to talk to me. Why are you different? You say you are a Christian. What do Christians believe, and why do you believe it?

For more on this topic, check out this article: The Way to Heaven

Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.


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