Feb. 6, 2011
Matthew 5:13-20

Dining in my collegiate cafeteria was always an adventure. Some nights were a hit (steak night), others a miss (King Ranch Casserole). Fortunately, tucked in the corner of the cafeteria was a waffle iron. When the unidentifiable objects outnumbered the identifiable substance of the casseroles, I retreated to the waffle iron.

One night I was enjoying a waffle at a table with my friends. My syrupy waffle outlasted my milk, so I headed for a refill. A friend was headed that way and offered to refill my glass. I should have noticed the sly grin on her face when she placed the cup on the table. Consumed with consuming the waffle I missed the smirk. When the white liquid touched my lips my tongue exploded.

Expecting the slightly sweet taste of milk I discovered the tangy fire of Tabasco! I’ve approached milk with a certain apprehension ever since.

Sadly, many unchurched approach Christians with the same apprehension I approach milk. Turn the conversation with someone outside the church to the people of God and inevitably you hear how they’ve been scalded by the Tabasco-like actions of church members. Expecting to find the sweet love of God in Christ’s followers, they encountered the same acid rampant in the world. Certainly Christians are not perfect, and some use the stereotype of the acidic Christian as an excuse, but Christ’s words in the Sermon on the Mount indicate He expects much more from His followers. He expects us to be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13).

In the context of Jesus’ culture, salt served several purposes: 1) As it does today, salt seasoned food to provide flavor; 2) Without refrigeration, salt served to preserve meat; 3) Conversely, salt had a destructive capacity, as well—it occasionally was sown in the ground to prevent future production (Judges 9:45); 4) Finally, salt created thirst. (When my grandmother was diagnosed with dehydration, the doctor prescribed salty potato chips and lots of water! Needless to say, she liked the new doctor.)

Sports commentators often identify potential Impact Players prior to the game: speedy tailbacks, long-armed defenders or consistent hitters. Those players have the greatest potential to change the course of the game. Salt is an Impact Substance. Salt is not passive or ambiguous; it creates or destroys. Just as salt impacts the world, Jesus expects His follower to impact the world for Him!

Christians improve the flavor of the world by living lives that are distinctly different.  Just as the distinct taste of salt enhances the flavor of food, a faithful life stands in stark contrast to the world. Unfortunately, the lives of professing Christ-followers too often mirror the surrounding culture. Rather than blend in with sin, we must stand out in holiness.

Christians preserve the world by acting in righteousness. It is not enough to reject sin; believers also must accept the invitation to work for Christ in the world. Welfare never was intended to be the responsibility of the government. It always has been the responsibility of Christ’s followers. Christians cannot neglect the God-given responsibilities to feed the hungry and help the hurting.

Christians destroy evil by standing firm for righteousness. Like salt placed on an icy driveway, Christians should work to melt away systemic evils by voicing the concerns of those whose voices frequently are stifled. Believers never should accept filth, perversion or oppression as commonplace. We must break down strongholds. We cannot be content with contamination.

Christians create a thirst for Christ by embodying Christ in the world. The title of Dan Kimball’s book provides a sad commentary on Christianity in our culture, They Like Jesus but Not the Church. Too many unchurched people reject the salt of Christ because they’ve received too much Tabasco from Christians. Hypocrisy and legalism rarely induce thirst. However, grace and peace as modeled by Jesus will entice the unchurched to the rich well of eternal water available in Christ.

Salt is an Impact Substance, and Jesus expects believers to impact their world for Him. Just as salt that loses its saltiness has no value, Christians who make no impact on the world have no place in the kingdom. Are you the salt of the earth?

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