As He begins His sermon on the mount in chapter 5, Jesus teaches his crowd of followers the goal and purpose of life. He starts that work with the beatitudes. One must first recognize one’s own spiritual poverty before God, because to be poor in spirit is a prerequisite to gaining the kingdom of heaven. One must mourn, for to gain God’s comfort is to first loose sin, then sinful behavior, then one’s own plans and purposes. One must have humility, for God opposes the proud and He does not reward the haughty. One must hunger and thirst for the things of God or one will not persevere. One must be merciful and pure or one cannot expect to draw others to the Lord. Jesus spends 2/3 of His beatitudes on these points.
In the last third – even though He is only beginning His sermon, Jesus already begins to teach about the need to take what you’ve gained from God and give it to others. The Christ-life must have an evangelical priority. One must be willing to suffer and sacrifice for Christ’s sake to be fruitful in His Kingdom.
To this end Jesus tells us that to be a peacemaker is to spread God’s peace to others. To so live a right life before others that they cannot help but respond means that some will respond negatively, so we must understand that persecution for righteousness sake as a positive. Moreover, to be persecuted for Jesus’ sake is to so identify with Him that others are not just witnessed to, but called to a decision point by our words and deeds – and again some will react negatively, even violently.
Obviously violence done to oneself – or insult or slander – is not the goal. But the goal is to so identify with Christ that others cannot help but decide on Him for themselves. It should be as though when you are around, people can taste heaven’s reality right here on earth. Or as Jesus puts it, “You are the salt of the earth.” That is the goal of life – to become ‘salty’ through identification with Jesus so that wherever you are, you bring the taste of heaven, and to stay that way through every circumstance.
Obviously, salt by nature is always salty. It cannot help but be salty to the taste, and virtually nothing anyone can do to it can stop it from being salty. Yet it can be diluted. In fact, if one puts enough other ‘stuff’ with it, it can completely cease tasting salty. Virtually every soft drink in the world has sodium chloride (salt) in it, but they don’t taste salty at all. There is so much water and sugar and other compounds in them that they taste overwhelmingly like something else.
Unfortunately many Christians live that kind of lifestyle. They ‘taste’ like something other than heaven to the world around them. They do not cause those around them to consider God or the kingdom of God. The salt Jesus meant them to be has been so watered down by their own priorities and worldliness that they can’t be used to ‘salt’ the people around them anymore than pouring a can of soda on the ground can ‘salt’ the earth.
That is a significant problem demanding much repentance. It is impossible to draw people to God if you do not season the environment you are in. What good beyond ourselves are we then, if that is the case for us? For as Jesus noted, “But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”
Christian salt has no business to remain snugly in elegant little ecclesiastical salt cellars; our place is to be rubbed into the secular community, as salt is rubbed into meat, to stop it going bad. And when society does go bad, we Christians tend to throw up our hands in pious horror and reproach the non-Christian world; but should we not rather reproach ourselves? One can hardly blame unsalted meat for going bad. It cannot do anything else. The real question to ask is: Where is the salt?John Stott
By your presence, words and actions, what flavour are you seasoning your environment with?