KEY LESSON FROM THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

…YOU ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH – (PART I)

“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 by men.” – Matt. 5:13 (NIV)

Introduction
In the beatitudes, Jesus describes the essential character of those who will be His disciples (people who are “ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven” – MHB 12 1st Stanza). To the Lord Jesus Christ, people with such transformation through Him cannot, but be a people of great influence. That is why immediately after the beatitudes, Jesus makes this powerful statement of fact “you are the salt of the earth.”

To whit, as Christians, we should exert a healthy influence in the world, tough and hard as it may be. Unfortunately, many of us Christians are so obsessed with the evils of our world that we think it is disadvantage to be a Christian, especially since we live in times when wrong is deemed right and right is deemed wrong.

People of Influence
Perhaps, you are also wondering what lasting good the poor in spirit, meek, mourners, the merciful and peacemakers can do in such a world.

You are wondering how those whose only passion is an appetite for righteousness and whose only weapon is purity of heart can accomplish. After all, does not the world see such people as too feeble to achieve anything?

Yet, this is where the Lord Jesus makes this great affirmation! Those with the characteristics enumerated in the beatitudes, Jesus says are truly the people of influence and power! Jesus calls us to exhibit and express this great influence we have to reveal our identity by our conspicuousness.

Our confession of Jesus Christ as the Lord of our lives and therefore our raison d’être should not be in secret but in the glare of the public. Many of us even advance the theory of “just live a holy life and do what pleases God but do not talk about your Christianity”.

That is not what Jesus teaches us. In Matthew 5:13-16 Jesus uses three conspicuous things known to human beings: that is, salt, light and a city set on a hill and He challenges us to be like that wherever we are – in our homes, in our businesses, in workplaces and in our churches.

We are to be conspicuous by our transformed lives whether this invites ridicule or respect. Because we are the children of God we are called to influence and impact the world just as salt and light do. We are to do this not in our own strength but in the power of the Holy Spirit.

SALT OF THE EARTH
What does the Lord Jesus exactly mean when He says we are the Salt of the Earth? Salt was a highly valued commodity in the days of Jesus. In fact the word salary – the amount of money that we get at the end of the month for work done – is derived from the Latin word for salt. In ancient times, salt was so precious

(yet not so easy to come by in some areas) that Roman soldiers were given salt rations. And if these rations were not available there was revolt. During Jesus’ days, salt was known by three important qualities.

Purity
Salt was connected with purity because it came from the purest of all things – the sun and the sea. This holds true today in spite of our degradation of the sea with pollutants and our destruction of the ozone layer with our air pollution.

The sun and the sea are still pure because God has created them to be so. Their purity transcends whatever assault pollutants may bring their way. So are Christians. It is God, the Creator and Sustainer of life who has declared us holy and righteous through the atoning work of Jesus Christ – Romans 5:19; 1 Cor. 1:30; Heb. 10:10. As the salt of the earth we must be examples of purity.

We all know that we live in a world that is characterised by mediocrity and lowering of standards of morality. Ghana, at the moment, is plagued by so much indiscipline, corruption and moral turpitude.

Excellence is no longer admired. The standards of honesty, diligence, conscientiousness and morality are all being lowered. We who are Christians are the ones who must uphold the standards of purity in:

the way we speak;
the way we conduct our lives;
the way we think;
the way we relate to others;
the way we work.

Our purity must be obvious and infectious. People must emulate us rather than drag us down into the vortex of their depravity. As Christians we must not be ashamed of our purity. We are the ones who must be seen as the most hardworking, honest and morally upright people.

Preservative
Before the days of refrigeration, salt was the best-known preservative. It was either rubbed into meat or fish all these were left to soak in the salt to halt or retard the process of decay even though it did not entirely arrest it.

Though we have entered the 21st Century, salt is still the most common commodity used as a preservative. Salt is like a new soul inserted into a dead body to give it life. As Christians we are the ones called to hinder social decay and retard the corruption around us. As William Temple puts it: Christians are to be the pervasive sweetening of life and of all human relationships because we are those who carry with us something of the mind of Christ.

We are like antiseptic, which kills the bacteria that lead to rottenness. Thus our presence, wherever we are, should influence people to be good. Because of our preservative and antiseptic influence people should find it easy to be good in our presence. When they are around us, striving for excellence and upholding high standards should be easy. The question to ask ourselves is: Do people’s standards improve when they are around us? Or do we sink to their level.

Jesus is telling us that sin has corrupted the world but we who have His Spirit are to preserve the world from total decay. We are not to be aloof and alienated from society. Though we are different, our presence should be the essential goodness that makes the world better.

Flavour
By far the most well known and obvious quality of salt is that it adds flavour, it makes food tasty. Without salt food is bland and difficult to eat. Christianity must bring flavour or taste to life. In a world fraught with anxiety and depression it is Christians who by their lives of serenity and joy will show that life is worth living.

Human beings though evil, can still do good because God has made a way of redemption through Christ. It is a fact that Christianity has made a lot of difference in lifting people from illiteracy and ignorance, from slavery to freedom, from oppression and tyranny to social justice.

Here in this country a lot of people dwell on the fact that because the white man brought colonialism Christianity is inherently evil because it is the same white man who introduced it here. The fallacy of such a statement or attitude is too glaring to deserve any further comment.

The wonderful thing about salt as a flavour is that it is not seen but its presence is unmistakable. One does not need a lot of salt to make food tasty. By that same token we do not need to be in the majority to make a difference. Each of us has a sphere of influence and we must focus on being effective.

You and I who have been transformed by the power of God and given new lives must demonstrate that without our essential life of purity, our powers of preservation and flavouring, putrefaction in our nation will be so intense that there will be total disintegration.

This is a challenge for you and me to show our distinctiveness through lives characterised by virtues of honesty, humility, hard work, love compassion and self-control.

As the Apostle Paul says in Titus 2:11-12: “For the grace of God – His unmerited favour and blessing – has come forward (appeared) for the deliverance from sin and the eternal salvation for all mankind. It has trained us to reject and renounce all ungodliness (irreligion) and worldly (passionate) desires, to live discreet (temperate, self-controlled), upright, devout (spiritually-whole) lives in this present world.” (Amplified).

We are indeed the SALT OF THE EARTH because God, through Christ, has made us so! Our purity, our power to preserve and give flavour are derived from Christ Jesus who indwells us by His Spirit. We have been saved to be God’s agents of change. We have been called to participate in God’s divine nature –2 Peter 1:4!!

Stay blessed!
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