Recently, I was reflecting on two important relationships in my life. One, a family member, the other a lifelong friend. The two have never met one another, but they have one glaring commonality- both are atheists.

Over the years I have tried to inform them of Jesus’ love for them. And while both are still living in darkness, the light seems to be drawing closer. Throughout my failed attempts, one question would consistently arise: how do I treat a person who’s not a Christian?

I’ve learned that as followers of the Lord, we have the opportunity to influence nonbelievers by our conduct and by taking advantage of every opportunity to tell them about Jesus.

Paul speaks on this in Colossians 4: 5-6:

5 Conduct yourself with wisdom in your interactions with outsiders (non-believers), make the most of each opportunity [treating it as something precious]. 6 Let your speech at all times be gracious and pleasant, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how to answer each one [who questions you].

This is such a powerful and telling passage.

When speaking or interacting with a nonbeliever, I’ve learned that how we conduct ourselves translates to what they hear. I can recall getting frustrated and argumentative in my discussions. By acting in such a manner, I realize now, that they never truly hear my message. Wisdom translates to seeing things from God’s perspective. It all begins with  behavior.

For a long time, I spoke of God, but was not fully familiar with the Word. The wisdom described in this verse comes from learning His Word, ultimately seeing things from His perspective, and putting those principles to work. I was attempting to lead people to Christ, but my conduct was not always Christ like, thus halting my efforts.  To clearly present the message of the Lord, what we do and what we say must be consistent with His Word. When I speak of the Lord now, my words stem from His truth, and the impact is evident.

In verse 6, Paul says to let your speech always be with grace. Take a look at the word “let” here. This means we control our speech. Gracious speech equates to no gossip, no slander, no favoritism – in everything we should be of good. Notice Paul also says “always” –  meaning in all situations, all the time, our speech is to be graceful.

As a child my grandfather would always tell me how fast time goes. What  a true statement that is. Our time on this Earth is short. We all can be face-to-face with God at any moment, which should be motivation that there are people in our lives who will die apart from Christ unless they hear and receive the gospel.

God wants you to make the most of the opportunity with nonbelievers.  How you conduct yourself can turn nonbelievers into your brothers and sisters in the Kingdom of God.