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The Salt of the Earth

Added by Holger Bergner on July 6, 2013. · No Comments · Share this Post

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By Holger Bergner, July 6, 2013

As Christians, we strive to be agents of change in the lives of others, and ultimately in society. That can mean making waves or going against the flow. Not everything you do and value will be in harmony with the status quo.

Nearly a decade ago, Pope John Paul II was reported as speaking to university students about overcoming the temptation of mediocrity and conformity. He said, “Following Christ, the crucified King, believers learn that to reign is to serve, seeking the good of others, and they discover that the real meaning of love is expressed in the sincere gift of self.” He stated that when life is lived with this spirit, the Christian becomes the “salt of the earth.” He went on to say, “It is not an easy way; it is often contrary to the mentality of your contemporaries. It means, of course, to go against the current, with respect to the prevailing conduct and fashions. … The mystery of the cross teaches a way of being and acting that is not in accord with the spirit of this world.”1

As Christians, we are called to spice things up with the seasoning of faith we bring. We must also realize that not everyone will like the flavor or be amenable to having the world around them seasoned with beliefs and values that are different from the ones they have been accustomed to. Some things—including challenges to our faith and opposition—are part of the Christian walk.

In Colossians, Paul said, “Live wisely among those who are not believers and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive, seasoned with salt, so that you will have the right response for everyone.”2 This seems to present a good balance of “making the most of every opportunity” in our witness to those who are unbelievers while ensuring that our speech is both gracious and attractive, and seasoned with the salt of our faith and Christian example. That is what Paul concludes will enable us to have the right response to everyone, or as Peter said, to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”3

It has been said that “God scattered [the early Christians] throughout the world to salt the whole earth and enlighten all mankind.”5 Ultimately, salt is embraced by many people as a needed ingredient that will bring out the best in food. When Jesus compared His followers to salt and light, it seems a reasonable assumption that He expected Christians to be embraced by many and for the Christian faith to become as essential as salt and light to many people’s lives. That’s quite a commission and quite a privilege that He empowers us to have an impact on others and be a force for good in their lives.

Salt in the Bible

Salt played a major role in Old Testament sacrifices and offerings. For this reason, Jesus’ use of this metaphor was familiar to His followers. In biblical times, salt was used for several purposes:

  • Seasoning: Just as it does today, salt served an important gustatory purpose. People would use salt to bring out the inherent flavor of foods. By comparing His followers to salt, Jesus indicated that they were to add flavor, or seasoning, to society.
  • Preservative: Since primitive times, salt has been used to preserve meat and other foods. Salt prevents decay and degradation of food products. In the same way, Jesus taught His followers to point others to the way of life, to show how they might be preserved from death and destruction.
  • Melting Ice: Salt has always been useful for thawing and melting ice. By serving as salt, Jesus’ followers might thaw people’s hearts with their kindness, making them open to friendship, relationships, and to God’s truth. 4

Salt is a necessity of life and is a mineral that was used since ancient times in many cultures as a seasoning, a preservative, a disinfectant, a component of ceremonial offerings, and as a unit of exchange. The Bible contains numerous references to salt. In various contexts, it is used metaphorically to signify permanence, loyalty, durability, fidelity, usefulness, value, and purification.5

Pliny, the first-century Roman naturalist and writer, and contemporary of Jesus, wrote in one of his encyclopedias, “Nothing is more useful than salt and sunshine.”

In the ancient biblical world, salt was a precious commodity. It gave flavor and zest to food; it served as an important preservative; salt also made people thirst for something more. Jesus wanted His disciples to give flavor and zest to the world through His teaching; to preserve the truth as He proclaimed it to the world; to make the world thirst for more. … If we do this as His disciples, we, too, will also be “light of the world.” Being the light of the world means, for Christians, spreading everywhere the light that comes from on high. It means fighting darkness due to evil and sin and often caused by ignorance, prejudice, and selfishness. The more we look on the face of Jesus, like an impressionist painting, the more light we see and the more we are transfigured by it. By their deeds the disciples are to influence the world for good.6

As salt seasons food by being lightly scattered upon it, so too Christians season the earth by being scattered throughout the various nations of the earth. By living in accordance with God’s way of life, Christians also preserve the earth by slowing the decay of morals in the society around them.7

Preserving the saltiness

Jesus said, “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again?” His answer: “Have salt in yourselves.”8

It’s up to each of us to carry those qualities of salt within us, so that we can season the world around us with His flavoring. The goal of having an alive, deep, and meaningful relationship with Jesus, of manifesting a Christian example and following Jesus’ teachings, of living and working in unity with others, has always been to be able to be “the salt of the earth,” part of “the light of the world, a city set on a hill,” that attracts others to the Lord, so that they too can come to know and love Him, and, if they’re willing, to help others to do the same.9

Being a force for good rests within each of us, as we do our part to love God, to stay true to His Word, and to share His love and Word with others whenever and wherever possible. As we strive to live and hold true to our Christian values, we can fulfill His commission to be the spice of life of this world; to give its full flavor and meaning to others, to be preservers of the good, and to share our faith—the true currency of the world—with others.

May the Lord bless your life and strengthen your witness and mission works so that they can serve as the salt of the earth and a lamp to light the paths of many. There is a world before us to reach and there are countless ways of spreading the good news and being a positive influence in the lives of others—a force for good.

1 Address to UNIV 2002 Congress in Rome, as reported by Zenit news service, March 25, 2002.
2 Colossians 4:5–6 NLT.
3 1 Peter 3:15 NIV.
4 Linda Ann Nickerson, “Origin and Meaning of ‘Salt of the Earth,’” http://www.helium.com/items/414322-origin-and-meaning-of-salt-of-the-earth.
5 John L. McKenzie.
6 Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, Zenit news service, February 1, 2011.
7 Wiki Answers.com.
8 Mark 9:50 NIV.
9 Matthew 5:13–14.

Photo credit: Arbyreed via Photopin, CC

 

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