Matthew 5:13-20; Isaiah 58:1-9; 1 Corinthians 2;1-12
“A Peanuts cartoon showed Peppermint Patty talking to Charlie Brown. She said, “Guess what, Chuck. The first day of School and I got sent to the Principal’s office, and it was your fault, Chuck.” “My fault? Said Chuck how could it be my fault? Why do you say everything is my fault?” “You’re my friend, aren’t you, Chuck? You should have been a better influence on me,” she replied.
Some cartoons like Peanut were created to make people laugh and think. In this cartoon, Peppermint Patty was seeking someone to blame for what happened to her, and even when we know it was not Charlie Brown’s fault, in certain way, she was right. Friends –especially Christian friends- should be a good influence on their friends because even when we do not realize it, we influence those who are around us, the question is: what kind of influence, good or bad.?
Matthew this morning presents Jesus talking to his newly chosen group of disciples and He is referring to them as the salt of the earth and light of the world. Nowadays, we might not comprehend what a great dignity Jesus bestowed on his followers when He called them salt and light. These titles were a great compliment! Especially -I think- when He called them salt. Because salt was a necessity of life in ancient times and therefore, a great value was attached to it. Salt was so important that sometimes it was used as currency.
The Roman Army occasionally paid their soldiers with it. In fact, our word “salary” comes from the Latin word “salarium,” which referred to the payments made to the soldiers with salt. We do not think much about salt today because is common and with a little value and we can live –if we want- without it; for us salt it is just a white granulated powder we put on the table in a little bottle with holes in the top. And if we take much, it can raise our blood pressure. However, when we are entirely dependent on salt to preserve our food, and when it is so valuable that it is used as currency -as it was in Jesus’ time- we get a completely different perspective of salt.
In Jesus’ times, salt was essential for survival, because it was the only way they had to preserve food, especially meat. Obviously, they did not know anything about refrigeration, so salt became very important in their ability to preserve their food.
Now, all this is what Jesus had in mind when He called His disciples salt of the earth. He had in mind something that was part of daily life, something that made the difference between having food in storage or starve to death.
Salt is not as meaningful for us as it was 2000 years ago. Does that mean that the title of “salt of the earth,” Jesus gave His followers does not mean anything for us today? I do not think so, what Jesus intended for His disciples back then, still true for us today. Jesus’ followers should still be as important in our society today, as salt was in Jesus’ time; we still must make the difference in our world, or maybe I should say, we must continue making the difference today as those Christians, brothers and sisters before us did.
Just a few examples of those brothers and sisters who were salt in their times and made a significant difference in our world: Clara Barton, founder of the International Red Cross, was Christian. Almost every one of the first 123 colleges and universities in the United States were founded by Christians for Christian purposes. The same could be said of orphanages, adoption agencies, centers for humane treatment of the insane, the list goes on and on.
The invitation to be salt still goes for all of us. As salt, what do we have to preserve? Listen to Matthew 28:20, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. From this, we can conclude that what we must preserve is God’s teaching, which tells us about God’s will; what we must preserve is Jesus’ example; Jesus’ way of life, no ours as many times we do. How can we do that? The same way the Early Church living our faith and passing on Jesus’ teaching.
Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. 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 underfoot.”
I do not know much about chemistry, numbers and formulas are not my strong area. However, those who know say that technically speaking, salt cannot lose its saltiness; sodium chloride is a stable compound. However, where Jesus lived, salt was collected from around the Dead Sea, where the crystals were often contaminated with other minerals. These crystallized formations were full of impurities, and since the actual salt was more soluble than the impurities, the rain could wash out the salt, which made what was left of little worth since it had lost its saltiness. When this happened, salt was thrown out, since it was no longer of any value either as a preservative or for flavoring. This salt still looked like salt at the plain sight but did not have any taste.
How can a Christian lose his or her saltines? When we allow the impurity of this world, impact our minds and thoughts, our hearts and feelings; When we think, act, speak, and live as those who do not profess Jesus as Savior.
When we do not make the difference where we are, we have lost our saltiness. Why do I believe this? Listen to Matthew 5:20, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
It’s very well-known what kind of righteousness the Pharisees practiced. They were legalist, self-centered, superficial, and money lovers. What Jesus is telling His disciples in Matthew 5:20 is, be different; He is reminding them and us that we will never change this world if we imitate what this world does.
Lately, some of our Christians leaders are not setting a good example; our denomination is not setting a good example. We might split because we cannot come together to worship with those who are and think differently than us. It seems to me that we are losing our saltiness.
How Jesus and the Early Church brought flavor and made the difference in their society in their times? First, by reaching and loving those who were invisible and marginalized. Jesus shared His Gospel with a Samaritan woman; He also healed the daughter of the Siro-Phoenicia woman. Jesus, and later the Church was surrounded by poor. Jesus had a preferential option for the poor. He knew changes take place from the bottom up. He was a friend of tax collectors, prostitutes, and all kinds of sinners. Those in power saw him as an enemy, not an ally.
Second, John 13:34 says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Are you aware of how Jesus loves you? Paul gives an excellent description of God’s love in 1 Corinthians 13. In verses 4 to 7, Paul says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” With that love, Christianity conquered the great Roman Empire. With that kind of love multitudes came to know Jesus.
Because of that love, they prayed and respected the king as Paul asked them; because of that kind of love, they accepted the slaves, women and gentiles as brothers and sisters, and by doing that, they were Salt of the earth.
Would you like to see a resurgence of the Church? Let us be -like Jesus- friends of “sinners,” let us go and reach the marginalized the Invisibles of our society and let us love them as Jesus loves us. Let us be again Salt of the earth.