Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth.” What are the functions of salt, and what does this mean for us today? How does this shape the way we interact with the world? Greg explores these questions in this sermon.
Being salt and light is the thematic centerpiece of the Sermon on the Mount. We are called to be representatives and priests to the world as distinct disciples of Christ, while at the same time living in the midst of the world.
The sermon focuses on the metaphor of being salty. Salt has two very important functions. First, it is a food preservative, something that was especially important in the ancient world before the era of refrigeration. This image does not mean that the church is the moral guardian of culture. Rather, it is about the people of God preserving the inherent worth of every person, no matter the circumstances that shape anyone’s life. The stories of Jesus demonstrate that Jesus was a protector and preserver of other’s worth.
For salt to actually preserve food, it must have contact with the food that it is preserving. This may seem obvious, but to drive home the point of the metaphor, this point must be made explicit. Too often the church has acted like the Pharisees, separating themselves from the world, and therefore, the world is not preserved. Therefore, God’s valuing of people is not experienced because the church is too worried about its own value and self-righteousness.
Second, salt offers flavoring. In the ancient world, salt did not add flavor; it brought out or enhanced the inherent flavor of the food. Many times, the church has assumed that it is supposed to bring the flavor, and therefore it swoops in to offer solutions to people’s problems. When doing so, the church has often created more problems. God’s salt does not force flavor on others from the outside; it brings the flavor that’s already present to the surface. We don’t bring God to others. God is already at work throughout the entire world. Our job is to work with God and help others see what God is doing.
The final question is this: What if salt loses saltiness? In the ancient world, this occurred as salt was mixed up with dirt and other minerals and thus lost the inherent characteristic of being salty. As a result, it lost its value. We must then ask how the church remains distinct while at the same time being in contact with the world. How do we interact with the world in such a way that we retain the characteristics of being salty?
Too often, in the history of God’s people, the church has gotten blended and diluted with things like nationalism, partisan politics, culture wars, individualism, consumerism, militarism or conspiracy theories. As a result, the church just looks like the rest of the world instead of a people who have something distinctive to offer the world.
As we embrace the way of the Kingdom, the Spirit will work through us to be salt to the world. In a world bitter with hate, sickness, disease and strife, we will be flavor-givers, seasoning things up, making life more palatable as we live into the life and love of Christ. This is our call.
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