Summary: We are Salt and Light. Jesus has commissioned us. We’re each ordained Christian workers. We are the world’s light. We are salt for the earth. Shine as a light before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Today we begin a series of a sermons following Jesus’ teaching in the sermon on the mount. What we’ll discover as we go through is a series of radical interpretations of God’s law, designed to teach his followers how to live lives that are shaped by God’s agenda for the world and for his people, rather than the world’s agenda.
But before he begins this series of exhortations to upright living Jesus first reminds the disciples of who and what they are. You may remember that in the giving of the 10 commandments God does the same thing. He first reminds the people "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;" and then proceeds to outline how they’re to live in response to his mercy and goodness. So too, here, Jesus first reminds them of what God has done for them already. First he begins with the beatitudes: the list of blessings that God has promised to his followers, then he adds these two "you are" statements. These two groups of sayings, the beatitudes and the "You ares", are foundational. They’re to become formative elements of the Christian life. Without them the rest becomes simply a list of do’s and don’ts. The foundation of the Christian life and witness is the grace of God, the blessings that God pours out on his people.
So he begins with the first affirmation: "You are the salt of the earth." What does salt do? It preserves. It purifies. It brings out the true flavour of food. It destroys the things that cause food to rot. But there’s more to this picture than just that. The other thing about salt is that it doesn’t exist for itself. If you eat a spoonful of salt you’re likely to make yourself sick. No, salt’s main purpose is the penetration of food. In a sense, salt needs to die before it becomes useful.
So can you see what Jesus is saying to his disciples? He’s saying you’re made to get involved in the world, to penetrate society. What for? To bring cleansing, to overcome the evils of society, to be an agent for good. Last week I commented on the fact that so many of the things we love about Australia come out of our Christian heritage. We enjoy freedom and equality, mateship, a fair go, a just legal system because Christians in the past got involved in politics and community leadership so that Christian standards would be applied to our common life as Australians. Well, sadly, that era is largely gone. Today we live in a much more secular society, but there are still politicians and other public figures who speak out for Christian values in government and law making and we should be encouraging and supporting them when they do that.
But the same goes for us in our more mundane suburban existence. We’re made to be salt in our local community.
By the way, did you notice that Jesus doesn’t say you should be salt, or become like salt. Rather, he says you are salt. This is your current nature. That’s what you’re like if you’re born again, remade in God’s image. But of course there is a problem with that isn’t there? We don’t always act like it’s true do we? In fact knowing that we’re salt leaves us with 2 choices.
The first choice is to do what we were designed for, to get into the food. That is, we can get involved in our world. We can get on the school committee or the local neighbourhood watch committee; we can spend time with other men or other women; we can use the opportunities we have to talk to people about our faith, to season our words with the salt of the gospel; we can inject alternate views into the conversation, views that reflect the values of the kingdom of heaven.
The other choice we could make is to avoid contact with food altogether. i.e. to withhold the seasoning of the gospel from our everyday conversations, from our committee deliberations, from our business decision making etc. That’s the response I fear lots of Christians make. We’re so afraid of being looked down on because we hold such divergent views, divergent form the majority that is, that we hold our tongue, rather than speaking out.
Jesus knows that this is a danger. So he issues a challenge.
He says you’ve got to remain salty. As I said we don’t have to become salty. That’s how we’ve been made. But we do need to maintain our saltiness. We need to make sure we don’t become stale. I’m not sure salt can go stale, but Christians certainly can. To change the metaphor, we need to maintain our edge if we’re to penetrate the hearts and minds of non-Christians.