Summary: Christians can be a godly influence on the world when we commit ourselves to being authentic and available.
Dr. Evan Kane was the chief surgeon of Kane Summit Hospital in New York City. He had practiced his specialty for 37 years. Over the course of time he came to question the wisdom of using general anesthesia for every surgery. He believed people would recover quicker if they only had local anesthesia. However, no matter how convinced Dr. Kane was about his theory, he had one problem. Noone wanted to go under his knife while they were awake. Everyone he talked to had the same fear. They didn’t want to feel the pain of the scalpel while they were awake during the surgery.
After much searching, Kane finally found a willing subject. It helped that it was a relatively common procedure. According to Dr. Kane’s own records, during his practice he had performed around 4,000 appendectomies, so the procedure was almost second nature to him. The patient was prepped and brought into the operating room. The local anesthesia was carefully administered. As he had always done, he cut into the right side of the abdomen and entered the body cavity. He tied off the blood vessels, found the appendix, excised it, and finished by sewing the incision back up. To his own credit, he proved himself right. Throughout the surgery the patient felt very little discomfort. In fact, he was up and around the next afternoon, which was remarkable since this was back in 1921. Back then when people had appendectomies they were kept in the hospital from 6 to 8 days. It was a milestone in the world of medicine. However what made it particularly noteworthy was that the patient and the doctor were the same person. Dr. Kane operated on himself. (Charles Swindoll, Veritas, Vol 2, No. 1; January, 2002)
Believe it or not, that’s what I’m going to ask you to do today. If you’re squeamish at the sight of blood, don’t worry. We won’t even break the skin. What I want you to do is something like "spiritual exploratory surgery." I want you to root around a bit in your soul, take a hard and honest look at your spiritual health, and to see if your faith is as healthy as it should be.
Our text for this morning is Matthew 5:13-16. These are 4 verses near the beginning of Jesus’ most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount. In this message, Jesus called his followers to the highest standards of conduct. He challenged us to "turn the other cheek" when we are struck on the right one. He commanded us to love our enemy, to forgive people who do us wrong, and to be sure we act with the purest motives. He said there were two roads, a wide road that leads to destruction and a narrow one that leads to life, and he said we ought to choose the narrow, hard to follow path. And here in these verses he calls those who follow Him to choose to be a godly influence on the society in which we live.
(Read Matthew 5:13-16)
Now I have to tell you, some of the tough teachings in the Sermon on the Mount have challenged me over the years. When I have heard Jesus say "Don’t worry about anything" and "Invest in the treasure of heaven instead of storing up stuff on earth" I have to admit it. I sometimes struggle with those things. When he said it is better to poke your eye out than look at a woman lustfully, I get a headache! Those are tough commands. But I always thought that these couple of verses were the easy part of the sermon. I thought being salt and light was pretty simple until I really started digging into the meaning of what Jesus was saying. As I studied this week, I came to realize what Jesus expects from us. We are to change the world we live in with our actions. He doesn’t just expect us to exist in the world. He expects the world to be transformed by our presence. The more I pondered the two images he used to describe how we are to affect the world, the more I recognized how tough these words are.
The first thing Jesus says we are like is salt. "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." Now at first blush this is a little difficult to understand. There’s no such thing as "unsalty salt." If you pour the granules out of your saltshaker and it’s not salty, somebody played a trick on you because salt doesn’t go bad. Sodium Chloride, table salt like Morton’s that you buy at the store is pure. But the Morton Salt Co. didn’t exist back in Jesus’ day. They got salt from evaporated sea water, and it was never completely pure. Occasionally what they gathered to use as seasoning or to preserve their meat was so impure that it wasn’t very salty at all. When that happened they would gather it up and cast it out in their fields to use as fertilizer. Sometimes they would throw it out the door to harden the pathway that led to their front porch. What Jesus says in these verses is that if His followers are going to change the world we live in, we have to be the real thing. Our lives can’t be a mixture of all kinds of impurity. We have to be uncompromised, pure, authentic. That’s the word I want you to remember with the challenge "You are the salt of the earth." Jesus is saying "Be authentic."