Pastor’s Corner – Salt and Light
Some phrases become so ingrained in our vocabulary we say them and everyone knows what we mean. Over time, the assumption that we all understand what we mean can lead to miscommunication. The most dramatic of these we see in our society today when a word or hand gesture has its meaning changed in light of recent cultural events or understandings. In other instances, the “original” meaning of the phrase comes to light and now we should no longer say it. These moving targets can get extremely frustrating and can certainly become a problem for people who aren’t’ keeping up on a word’s latest meaning or cultural understanding of a situation.
In our reading this weekend, we once again revisit the Salt and Light phrase of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.” The temptation for most believers is to think “I know this one” and simply apply our old understanding to this phrase and move on. From one perspective this makes sense; God’s word never changes and, therefore, we can be confident that we still understand what it means. At the same time, the world is ever-changing. If we fail to consider where our culture is, it is increasingly difficult to be the Salt and Light to the world.
Salt and Light don’t change but the context around them does change. For example, salt is good for flavoring and preserving foods. Salt is bad for people with blood pressure issues. Light is great when you are awake; it usually isn’t when you are trying to sleep. When God calls us to be salt and light, it isn’t sufficient to know what it means; we need to consider how to apply salt and light in situations in order to produce the intended outcome.
The intended outcome is to improve the “flavor” of our society and the “sight” of all people. The means in which this improvement occurs is not some program or organization (not even the “church”). The means of improvement is simply “you.” YOU are the salt of the earth; YOU are the light of the world. In this simple illustration and context, Jesus reminds His disciples that WE are the light of the world. WE are the salt of the earth. Our identity is that which brings flavor to the world, not the program, project or idea we bring. If the world is without the flavor of God it isn’t because we are doing the wrong things, it is because we focused on doing things and forgotten who we are.
We cannot pour ourselves into programming and activities and wonder why our children and neighbors don’t know Jesus. We are Jesus to them. If we want them to know Jesus, we need to first look at ourselves and see if we are salt and light or if we instead are rules and regulations, judgment and correction or some other combination of actions to them. We can use our collective might as believers to get society to conform to our faith, for a while, as long as we have Godly leadership. But, this legislated circumstance will bear the fruit of rebellion.
Being Salt and Light means places are dark and things are tasteless. We don’t fix this situation by “applying” and light through simply “doing”; we bring flavor and light by our very nature; our “Being”. The “ministry of presence” is what we call this among pastors. It is the same for all of God’s people. We must go to the dark places and be the light. We can’t go, do something and then leave. The people will be right back in their dark and tasteless lives. We need to go and stay, as long as it takes, until the light can continue to shine through others who come to know the source of the Light and Life–Jesus.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14