“Ye are the salt of the earth, but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is henceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out…”
Jesus of Nazareth
Salt is an interesting substance. It is made up of a corrosive metal---sodium, and a toxic gas—chloride. Alone each can cause the human body great harm. Together they form a substance essential for life. The taste of salt by itself is sharp and rather unappealing, but we need salt to live so we have a taste receptor just for saltiness and a natural desire for salt.
Salt is transformative. It enhances the flavor of everything we cook. It is cleansing. Although I don’t recommend adding it to a wound, it will certainly kill a great many bacteria hiding there. At times salt has been used as money, allowing people to trade it for the things they wanted. Salt is a bit like life itself, full of contradictions in logic and mysterious connections.
Jesus compared his followers to salt. They were often corrosive, even toxic, personalities. Blended under God’s direction, their lives are transformed. This transformation is key to Christianity. On the surface, Christ’s disciples may appear to be pretty much as they always have, but they are not the same.
How dramatic the initial stage of transformation may be is often dependent upon a person’s former state. For people raised in a church environment, the change may seem subtle. For those at their wit’s end without no resources but this world, the change may be an initial one hundred-eighty degree about-face.
Whatever the case may be, the essential elements of a person’s inherent make-up remain constant. Sodium remains sodium and chlorine remains chloride even when in combination as salt. Those who come to Christ have a new focus, they have switched sides, they claim new life…all of which are true, but they still retain the essence of who they have always been.
Saul of Tarsus went from persecutor to apostle over the course of a short road trip. However drastic the change may seem, Saul…now named Paul remained the hard-driving, deep thinking, multitalented, somewhat caustic, zealot he always was. His talents and personality simply had a new focus. He was under new management.
Salt is used primarily as a seasoning. It is added to other foods, not to dominate the dish but to make everything within it taste better. It enhances but does not alter. Disciples “worth their salt” season the world around them by being themselves...or more precisely, the version of themselves that Christ is transforming them into.
Christians are called by Christ to evangelize, meaning they are so thrilled with what has happened to them that it shines. I believe evangelism is a lifestyle more than a specific action. Peter outlined this lifestyle when he wrote:
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear…”
I think it important here to clarify some of the words Peter uses. Sanctify means to give respect to someone/something special or holy…to set apart for special use. To sanctify God in your heart is to set God above all else. God, not a church, not family, not friends, not things, becomes top priority in action and thought. If you don’t believe that won’t alter your life, you’re not doing it right.
When the scriptures speak of meekness, it is imperative that believers exorcise the image they have learned from their minds. Meekness is not weakness, it is in fact the complete opposite. To be meek is to demonstrate a quiet, gentle nature, not wanting to fight or argue. It does not mean one lacks the ability to fight or argue, only that we prefer no to do so…relying instead on the quietness of reason.
Then there’s fear. Again, get the world’s notion of fear out of your mind when you read the word in scripture. To fear God is to reverence God by harboring a feeling of awe for God’s person, power, and creation. I heard someone of another faith once say that they did not kneel, tremble, or plea with their god(s). I was genuinely sorry for them that their god could not produce reverence simply by showing up.
Like salt, Christians are to enhance the world’s taste for that which is good by being good themselves. It’s not easy and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen. Time does not cause salt to lose its flavor.
As far as I know, only one thing makes salt seem less salty…dilution. When Christianity is watered down or mixed with so much other “stuff” as to be indistinguishable from the rest, it has lost its savor. Jesus says it is then good for nothing. Only one thing will restore its flavor…strengthening the original salt by eliminating everything it has been diluted with.
What attracted me to Christianity was a clear demonstration by Christians that they possessed something I lacked. I believe that is what Jesus had in mind when he called his disciples the salt of the earth. Without a doubt, adding that something they had to my life was transformative in a very good way.