Like bulls charging a red cape, members of churches of Christ sometimes paw the ground and snort in Bible classes. Distinguishing sound doctrine (Tit. 2:1) from religious error is required, but is it necessary to call out denominations by name (the Lutherists believe this, or the Baptarians teach that...)? Is this good form?
"Walk in wisdom toward outsiders," said Paul, "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer every man" (Col. 4:5-7). Responding to "outsiders" is the focus of this passage just as responding to outsiders is the focus of this brief "Members Only" article. How should we respond?
1. We ought to use "wisdom."
2. Our speech ought to be "gracious."
3. There ought to be a seasoning "with salt."
Calling out various denominations is a matter of "wisdom" and not a matter of right or wrong. We are not necessarily wrong to criticize Baptamethaterians, but is this the "rightest" thing to do? We are not necessarily wrong to wrangle about fine points of doctrine, but is this the "rightest" thing to do in an open class? Pretend that you are a visitor. How would you feel if your particular denomination was the subject of someone's sharp comment or if an esoteric debate broke out? How would you feel if a debate over fine points of doctrine broke out?
"Gracious speech" requires the judicious use of words. Using the best words at the best time with the best tone of voice is best. "In your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent (will) have nothing evil to say about us" (Tit. 2:7-8). "Some people believe..." is often preferable to "The Evangelicans believe..."
"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste...It is no longer good for anything" (Mt. 5:13). We cannot just smile and be salt free, in other words, but what to say and how salty still matters. Peter said, "Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect" (I Pet. 3:15).
Applying just the right amount of seasoning at just the right time is the key.
1. Look around – are there unknown visitors present?
2. Choose your words – is there a more gracious, dignified and respectful way to say it?
3. Bite your tongue – is this the best time and place?
God is blessing us with many visitors. Let's greet them with "Words fitly spoken" (Prov. 25:11). "Aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord's sight but also in the sight of man" (II Cor. 8:21).