Wednesday, March 28, 2012

More Salt Please

"'You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
"'You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.'”  Matthew 5:13-16
“You are the salt of the earth...”  That's really an over used phrase isn't it?  Do we even really know what Jesus meant when He said it in the Sermon on the Mount? Part of the problem is that salt is so easy to come by now, and not nearly as important as it was before refrigeration was invented.  A couple of years ago I read an amazing book called, oddly enough, Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky.  It is really a fascinating book as it discusses the effects of having and not having salt shaped  civilization.  A website by the Salt Institute gives a brief run down of the importance of salt throughout history.

Sometimes salt was worth more than gold or silver. And without it, no one could preserve the food they would need.  Beyond that, salt was often used as a cleaner and a disinfectant.  Oh, and it made food taste better.  So, when Jesus told His followers and disciples that they were the salt of the world, He was really saying something significant and meaningful to them.  But what is He saying to us? 
By comparison our experience with salt is really limited maybe even skewed, because most of us have heard for the last however many years that we should limit our salt intake.  And all we really know is that if you have to go on a limited salt diet, nothing tastes very good, right?  So, how can we get to a place where we can understand what Jesus meant?  Well, let's start with what we know.  Food without salt doesn't taste very good.  Almost every recipe I've ever seen has at least a pinch of salt in it...even cakes, cookies and candy and if you leave out those few grains of salt, the recipe is ruined.  You can't see it in the finished dish; you don't actually taste anything that makes you think of salt; you can't smell it, but if it's not there, you really miss it.  Not to mention, we can't live without salt; it's essential to life.

 What if we misquoted the phrase this way, “You are the hope of the earth.”?   There are people out there who are missing that very important ingredient. They don't have any hope.  I think I've mentioned this before, but did you know that the one most reliable indicator of future suicides is hopelessness?  When a person comes to the point in his (or her) life that he can't see any way for things to ever get better; when he can't find any way out, that's when he commits suicide.

As we go through our everyday life, maybe we can start by asking God to help us share a pinch of hope with the people we work with, with our families, with the person who checks us out at the grocery store.  It's a place to start and when you think about it, that's a lot of what Jesus did. (Am I being too simplistic?)  He gave people hope that they could have something better when they gave their lives to Him. 
“In casting salt into the bitter spring, Elisha taught the same spiritual lesson imparted centuries later by the Saviour to His disciples when He declared, "Ye are the salt of the earth." The salt mingling with the polluted spring purified its waters and brought life and blessing where before had been blighting and death. When God compares His children to salt, He would teach them that His purpose in making them the subjects of His grace is that they may become agents in saving others. . . .” EG White, Conflict and Courage (1970), page 224
The other part of those verses is Jesus telling his listeners that they are the light of the world.  Now being the salt of the earth is one thing.  It's important and all, but it seems more like something that you can do without drawing too much attention – you just go through your everyday life and share a little cheerfulness and hope with the people you come in contact with.  And, if for some reason, you don't always do that, well, nobody will know about it, right?  But being the light of the world...yikes! 

I mean, Jesus even says in the next sentence, “ A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”  I mean, if I mess that up, everybody's going to know about it.

That's not really the point Jesus is making though is it?

First of all, being salt and light for Him is not really something we can turn on and off, is it?  If we choose to follow Him and be His disciple, we will be those things; if we choose not to follow Him, we won't be.  There is no half way. 
“Whenever God blesses His children with light and truth, it is not only that they may have the gift of eternal life, but that those around them may also be spiritually enlightened. . . . "Ye are the salt of the earth." And when God makes His children salt, it is not only for their own preservation, but that they may be agents in preserving others.” EG White,  Reflecting Christ (1985), page 205.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer says in his book The Cost of Discipleship, 
“The disciples...must not only think of heaven; they have an earthly task as well.”  And according to Tony Sowega, “Disciples are the only hope the earth has. ... The works of believers must be seen so as to speak out and draw all men to Jesus.  Can a disciple make a choice whether they will be 'salt' and 'light'?  What are those who 'put their lamp under a basket' doing?  They are denying the call to discipleship.  Jesus does not say, 'You ought to be salt and light' or 'After you've practiced being a Christian for a while, you may be salt and light.'  Jesus says, 'You are salt and light.'”
Think about the song we learned in Sabbath School (that I just learned is a spiritual.  I didn't know that):  “This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine...Won't let Satan blow it out...Hide it under a bushel? No...All around the neighborhood...Let it shine till Jesus come, I'm going to let it shine.”
Do I really mean that?  Or am I just singing along because I like the tune?  Am I ready to be a reflection of "Jesus to the World?"

New Song

A little girl who is hungry
Prays for something she can eat
A single mom doing all she can
Finds herself out on the street
Will we see their need and hear their cries
Look at our watch and just walk on by
Or will we stop and take the time
To be Jesus in their lives

We need to be lambs that roar
We need to be eagles that soar
We need to be salt
We need to be light
We need to be Jesus to the world

We need to take love into the streets
Be willing to turn the other cheek
We need to be strong
We need to be weak

We need to be Jesus
Jesus to the world

Jesus came with a message
That would change the way we live
He showed us all by example
What the heart of heaven is

He saw our need and He heard our cry
He loved us so much that He gave His life
He taught us by his sacrifice
How we should live our lives

We can talk and talk about what is wrong
But that won't change one thing at all
We must take God's love where the hurting live
'Cause that's what Jesus did

We need to be Jesus
Jesus to the world                 

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