Salt and Light

Jesus tells us we are to be ‘Salt’ and ‘Light’ to the world. The phrase ‘Salt of the Earth’ has gone down in colloquial English to refer to someone who is perceived to be of ‘high quality’. Someone who would do anything for anyone. Interesting then how Christians has mainly thought that this means that we are to be ‘preservative’ for the world….

It’s also interesting how I found what respected Christian writer Jeremy Myers has to say about the ‘Salt and Light’ of Jesus’s parable:

“One  of  the  metaphors  Jesus  used  to  describe  how  we  work and function within the world is His picture of salt and  light.  Jesus  said  that  His  followers  would  be  the  salt  of  the  earth and the light of the world (Matt 5:13-14).

“In  our  churches,  we  accurately  teach  that  in  biblical  times,  salt  was  a  preservative.  And  based  on  that  fact,  we  think  that  Jesus  is  telling  us  we  need  to  be  the  world’s  preservative. We need to defend and protect the culture and  society against all decay and filth. We try to preserve what is  good  and  upright  in  society  and  culture.  We  embark  on  political activism by endorsing pro-life, pro-family, and anti homosexual  political  candidates.  We  picket  the  strip  clubs  and hold rallies to get prayer back in school. We write letters  to  the  editor  and  rent  billboard  space  on  the  interstate.  We  believe that it is the Christian duty to moralize the behavior  of the world.

“We do similar things with the image of light.  We try to  be  as  big  and  as  bright  as  possible,  thinking  that  this  will  draw people to Jesus and reveal the truth of God’s Word. So  we  try  to  get  noticed  in  the  community.  We  “go  big”  and  make a splash. We spend money on advertising, and do our  best to match the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. We hope that  if  people  notice  us,  and  we  can  look  popular  and  relevant, they will want to be part of us. But it rarely works.

“And so some churches go the opposite route, and simply try  to burn the sin out of others. These churches seem to believe  that if our holiness and righteousness can shine as bright and  hot  as  the  sun,  then  all  evil  within  ten  miles  of  the  church  will scurry back into the hole it came from. These churches  think it is our job to point out every person’s sin, shining the  spotlight upon any who fall out of line, and in so doing, call  people  to  repentance.  But  this  rarely  works  either,  and  usually the only sin that gets revealed is the hypocrisy of the  church.

“And  really,  the  sin  in  society  and  culture  just  seems  to  grow. So churches redouble their efforts and either go bigger  or  shout  louder.  But  nothing  seems  to  slow  this  downward  spiral into moral decay. Some critics of the church argue that  the efforts of Christians have only exacerbated the decline.

“It is probably time to recognize then, that the church has  gone about being salt and light in the wrong way. We have  tried to be noticed. We have tried to influence. We have tried  to get into positions of leadership and power. We have tried  to   shout   people   into   submission,   and   beat   them   into  obedience.  It  doesn’t  work,  and  in  fact,  it  turns  out  to  be  a  complete  misunderstanding  of  Jesus’  metaphor  about  salt  and light.

“When  Jesus  teaches  about  salt,  He  says  nothing  about  preservation. We are to be salt, but not to preserve. Though  they did use salt to preserve food in the days of Jesus, there  was another use for salt as well: Just like today, salt was used  for flavor. It is the flavoring characteristics of salt that Jesus  mentions in His metaphor.

“And as a flavor, salt should not be noticed. It is there to  enhance the flavor; not overwhelm it. Have you ever eaten a  dish  with  too  much  salt?  When  I  was  younger,  someone  in the family made a batch of cookies and accidentally switched  the  sugar  and  the  salt.  Those  cookies  were  not  a  family  favorite.  At  the  same  time,  when  salt  is  called  for  in  a  favorite dish, but is left out, the dish tastes bland. Salt brings  out  the  flavor  in  food,  and  shouldn’t  be  noticed  until  it’s  gone.

“The same is true of light. Light is helpful for life, but too  much light is harmful. It should not be  blinding, glaring, or  harsh. But when the lighting is just right, you don’t notice it  until  it  is  gone.  In  the  teaching  by  Jesus,  He  talks  about  giving light to those in the house (Matt 5:15). Clearly, He is  not talking about a light with the intensity of the sun. He is  talking about a nice, warm fire in the hearth, or a few candles  placed in strategic places around the room. They  give off  a  nice glow and let people go about their work or leisure. The  light  goes  unnoticed,  without  blinding  or  distracting  those  who are in its presence.

“This is the way of the church when we follow Jesus into  the  world.  We  are  present  in  all  areas  with  others,  working  among them, eating where they eat, visiting the places they  visit,  enjoying  the  same  activities.  But  we  are  a  hidden  influence.  A  small  dash  of  salt,  which  goes  unnoticed,  but  provides  the  spark  of  life  and  intensity  of  flavor  which  is  missing when we are not around. We are a light, showing the  way  forward  and  guiding  people  onto  the  way  of  truth,  whether  they  recognize  it  or  not.  When  we  are  not  around,  things  seem  less  clear.  When  we  are  salt  and  light,  people  cannot  put  a  finger  on  why  they  want  us  around,  but  they  know they do.

“We must find the right balance between not enough and  too much if we want to be salt and light. We need to exist in  our communities in a way that helps them exist and function  with all the flavor and color that God intended, but not in a  way  that  we  are  distasteful  or  harsh.  We  need  to  exist  in  a  way  that  is  influential,  but  unnoticed.  We  need  to  exist  in  such a way that the only time we really are noticed is when  we are gone.

“So  as  we  follow  Jesus  into  the  world,  He  pretty  much  leads  us  into  the  places  where  we  are  already  living  and  working. He leads us over the neighborhood diner, to eat and  laugh with the regulars. He leads us down to the ball game,  to cheer on the local team with our friends. We follow Him  to our jobs, where we work as the most honest and diligent  employees (or managers) the company has ever seen.

“When  we  are  ready,  Jesus  may  lead  us  other  places  as  well.  Like  maybe  over  to  your  neighbor’s  house  when  his  wife  dies.  Or  down  under  the  bridge,  to  bring  tarps  and  potato chips to the homeless. Even down to the street corner  to hang out with the prostitutes while they wait for work”

From ‘The Skeleton Church’ by Jeremy Myers, pgs 47-49, quoted with his permission.

You can get a copy of The Skeleton church by subscribing to Jeremy’s mailing list at – no strings attached!

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