Monday, April 1, 2013

Salt and Light

I have frequently heard the phrase in Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot." This phrase has always struck me as odd. For me, salt is an optional seasoning. It is added to food to enhance its flavor, but isn't always required.

Yes, I understand that salt is necessary to help your body maintain fluid balance, help your muscles relax and your nerves transmit signals and even helps maintain normal blood pressure. But in everyday life, salt is an extra.  What does this metaphor mean when applied to Christians?

I recently listened to a conference excerpt by Kimberly Hahn and she was able to make this metaphor come alive for me. I'll paraphrase...

 When you go to a movie theater, the first thing you smell is the popcorn. Even before you go inside. There's that smell. By the time you get up to the counter, you are ready to grab the extra-large-super-size bucket. You carry it back to your seat and begin to enjoy handful after handful of popped goodness. After a short time, you wish you had bought that super-sized drink as well! You become so thirsty! Why? It's the salt. The salt in the popcorn makes you thirsty for something else.

And there it is. Like salt, Christians ought to be making people thirsty for God. Your presence in the world should cause people to become aware of their own lack of God and begin to actively look for it.

Like the adjoining metaphor in the following passage (verse 14), "You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden," a Christian who is light does not shine so people can see him, a Christian shines so that others might see God. They are the means by which God is made visible.   A Christian is a sign that points to something else, something beyond what is plainly there. Neither the salt nor the light are there for themselves; they are not the final destination.  Their effectiveness is their ability to show the way to something else.

 For Christians, the signs point to God.

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