Salt doesn’t get as much respect as it used to. It has become so ubiquitous in modern times, especially in processed foods, that most of us probably get way more sodium than we need. With some people, too much salt has become a serious health issue.
Still, if you’ve had the misfortune of eating McDonald’s french fries with no salt at all (not even added by the restaurant), you realize how important it really is! McDonald’s fries sans the salt are a culinary disaster of the first order.
In the ancient world, just like today, salt served two basic purposes: seasoning and preserving food. Jesus probably had that in mind when he used a salt metaphor in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount:
You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. (Matthew 5:13 CEB)
Jesus was speaking here to his disciples (see verse 1), not just to the original 12, but to his expanded group of followers. We, of course, understand these words to be meant for us as well. But what exactly was Jesus talking about when he said we’re the salt of the earth? I believe he was referring to seasoning and preserving.
Effective seasoning brings out the taste in prepared food. Using the McDonald’s fries analogy, it’s obviously not the salt by itself that makes french fries good, or else we’d skip the potatoes altogether and have salt by itself. No, salt wakes up the flavor that’s already in the fries. It brings out the best in what would otherwise be bland potatoes. I believe Christians who are salt learn how to bring out the best in other people. That’s why it bothers me when I see people who wear Christ’s name having the opposite effect. Unfortunately, some Christians even seem to get pleasure from antagonizing other people. As believers we should bless other people, gently challenge them at times, help them discover their potential and help reveal Jesus to them. That’s salt in action.
Salt also keeps food from spoiling. It’s my belief that believers in the world, when we’re living up to our calling, bring blessings to everyone around us, whether they’re Christian or not. Our very prayers for nonbelievers help bring down the blessings of God in their lives. And if we get into the business of doing the things Jesus did, we bring hope to all people. I believe it’s both the Holy Spirit indwelling Christians and the active, powerful prayers of the saints that play a big role in keeping all hell from breaking loose in the world today. If people wonder why mercy and grace seem more commonplace now than they did in the Old Testament, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s because of the blood of Christ. But I believe that it’s the body of Christ (the church) applying that blood in prayer, praying for the world, ministering in the world and engaging the world that helps bring a level of mercy and grace to the world as a whole. In the same way God in the Bible dealt with entire groups of people more benevolently because of the faith of a few, God’s kindness overflows through Christians for the rest of the world today.
So go be salt. There’s no one else in the world besides you who reaches the same exact people in the places where you have the potential of reaching them each day. Make it your prayer that God will use you to bring out the best in everyone else, and that God will also use you as a window for him to pour out blessings on other people. This is the kind of Christianity that has the potential of shaking things up… in a good way.