salt and iron essay contest henry nolden honorable mention colossians 4:6

HONORABLE MENTION: Henry Nolden, Salty Words

Salt and Iron would like to thank and recognize Henry Nolden for submitting his work to our 1st Annual Essay Contest!  Henry contributes regularly to Salt and Iron while attending Missouri State College. He explains his motivation for writing:

I write to glorify God, bless others, and be an edifying factor in the lives of others and myself. I do this by offering educational content that I hope is an educational and uplifting experience for my readers.

Read his entry below:

Salty Words

Colossians 4:6 – “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

What does it mean to season your words with salt? To answer this question, it helps to look at what salt meant to the people whom Paul was addressing his letter. To the Roman people, and indeed to many cultures throughout time and space, salt has been a precious and useful resource. The Romans used it as a preservative and flavor enhancer and considered it valuable enough to use it at times to pay their soldiers.

Metaphors take meaning from their real-world counterparts. When Jesus said “I am the way”, we don’t think that he is literally calling himself a road but understand that He is using the imagery of a road to highlight his role as the facilitator of the relationship between mankind and God. Jesus is the Way by which that relationship is restored. By the same token, Paul does not mean that we should carry a salt shaker around with us for when we talk but that our words should have the qualities of salt. They should be sparsely used, but providing a valuable contribution, and only used in the appropriate situation.

I believe that the idea of “seasoning your words with salt” is a call to wisdom. This is evident in the full context of the verses surrounding 4:6. Colossians 4:5 states “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” Verse 5 is the exhortation; verse 6 tells us how. It also gives us the purpose of this salty speech – to bless those who are without wisdom, making use of the time spent with them. In the book of Proverbs, we are continually told to avoid fools, that spending time with them would only serve to make us like them. By the same token, Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount not to cast our pearls before swine, for they may trample them under their feet, then turn and tear you to pieces.

Our salt is the grace within us, the judgments we bear, and the exhortations we offer to others, inspiring them to a better life in Jesus. We do so knowing that we will be rebuked, reviled, and hated for our supposed arrogance. How dare we claim to know right from wrong, and tell others that they are wrong! – say our opponents. But in the grand Christian tradition of paradox, they are not opponents, but rather fellow image-bearers of our heavenly Father. They are not our enemies, though they view us as theirs. They are our estranged brothers and sisters in Christ whom we seek to woo to Him through our words and deeds. However, we do not win them with carelessly chosen arguments, cruel taunts, or mindless chatter. It requires an intentional, focused dialogue that addresses their concerns and reservations. It mandates an attitude of grace, of being willing and able to hear not only their words, but the heart behind what is said. And most of all, it requires knowing when to be silent. An apt word is a timely one. You must know when and how to share your wise words, or you can end up making things even worse.

Our purpose in this life upon this planet is to glorify God with our entire existence. God does not ask for our love alone, but our whole self – mind, body, soul, and spirit. Our every word and deed ought to reflect this knowledge, this reality. But, to borrow a quote from C. S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity, “Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”

Acting in enemy territory requires discretion, knowing when, where, and how best to exert our influence upon those about us. This requires skill, experience, and, most of all, wisdom. We face an enemy that does not want to kill us; no, it wants to do far, far worse. Our enemy wants to sever our bond with the source of life, the creator and sustainer of existence. Our enemy wants to doom us to a fate worse than death – an existence severed from our Creator. We face a ruthless foe bare-handed, with no weapons recognized by this world. We fight with wisdom, winsome truth, and the confidence and surety that comes from the knowledge and assurance that we serve a good and holy Lord and Savior, one who gave his all to return us to the one from whom comes all. Therefore, to fulfill our purpose, we use our salty words to bring life and freedom to those around us.

Author: Henry Nolden

Henry Nolden graduated from College of the Ozarks with a BA in History and a minor in Criminal Justice. He recently graduated from Missouri State University's Defense and Strategic Studies program in Fairfax, Virginia with a Master's degree in the same. In addition to his passion for military history, he pursues interests in education, theology, philosophy, literature, and the role that worldview plays in developing perspective.

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