“The followers of Jesus are to be different from both the nominal church and the secular world, different from both the religious and the irreligious. The Sermon on the Mount is the most complete delineation anywhere in the New Testament of the Christian counter-culture…and this counter-culture is the life of the kingdom of God.” —John Stott, British preacher, evangelist and author (1921 – 2011).
PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)
“Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, in whose mighty Name we pray, Amen.”
SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.” (Matthew 5:13 The Message)
PRAYER FOCUS: Salt.
There it is, in red letters. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth.”
But what, exactly, does that mean?
Before the days of refrigerators and deep-freezers, before the synthesis of complex chemicals like Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), and Sodium Benzoate (E211), salt’s primary use was to keep meat from rotting. That is, of course, unless the salt had lost its distinct characteristics.
In addition to its preservative benefit, salt also has healing properties, especially on broken skin and open wounds. Yes, it burns a bit when it contacts raw flesh. However, given enough concentration, salt also kills most germs on contact, a natural antiseptic which, in turn, allows wounds to heal.
Salt was the original flavor enhancer. Did you know that a little salt will smooth the bitterness in coffee? Dipping or soaking fish filets in brine will draw out the old dead blood and leave the fish tasting sweet and moist (this works with shellfish like shrimp, too). How boring would our diets be without a dash of salt in our food?
In His reference to salt in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is reminding His followers that they should manifest these same characteristics. Followers of Jesus should exert a positive, preservative influence on the people around them. Salty Christians bring healing, both on an individual and a corporate level. And they enhance the flavor of the lives that come in contact with them.
Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt so that you may know how to answer everyone.” 1 Peter 3:15 agrees, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Food cooked without salt can be tasteless, but the right amount of salt brings out the best in food’s natural taste. In the same way, our conversations should be full of grace, seasoned with love and truth, bringing out the best in others.
In chapter 4 of the Gospel of John, there is an exemplary interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Even though Jesus knew this woman was living in sin, an outcast even among the Samaritans, He didn’t berate her. He didn’t wave His finger in her face or scold, “You sinful woman get your act together or you will go to hell”—even though that was true.
No, Jesus was gentle. He used words full of grace, seasoned with both love and truth. The key passage is verse 39: “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” Jesus conversed with her in such a way that not only she got saved, but many in the village as well (verse 41).
This week’s Lectionary Scriptures are really strong, and we hope you’ll take a moment to read them. We focus on this one passage in Matthew because it is here that so many Christians stumble. Jesus declared that His followers are the salt of the world. He wants us to add seasoning to our society and preserve it from its moral decay. He wants us to cleanse and heal wounds in our community. He wants us to use language that will win hearts and minds, to persuade people to come to the Lord so that they, too, will believe.
Jesus wants His followers to win souls, not just arguments.
But even the best salt is of no use if it’s not where it needs to be. One of Britain’s best-known and best-loved Christian theologians, John Stott, whom we quote today, reminds us:
God intends us to penetrate the world. Christian salt has no business to remain snugly in elegant little ecclesiastical salt cellars; our place is to be rubbed into the secular community, as salt is rubbed into meat, to stop it going bad. And when society does go bad, we Christians tend to throw up our hands in pious horror and reproach the non-Christian world; but should we not rather reproach ourselves? One can hardly blame unsalted meat for going bad. It cannot do anything else. The real question to ask is: Where is the salt?
Meat, left alone, will naturally rot. It’s what meat does. The salt’s quality matters little if it’s not in the meat.
It’s Monday Morning. Are you conformed to this world, without your salty goodness? Or are you a life-giving, life-preserving force to those around you? Wouldn’t this be a good week to get off the shelf, out of the shaker, and make a difference? Grace and peace be with you, salty Christian.