I wish I could have been there that day when Jesus took a seat on top of a mountaintop, an audience looking on, and His disciples getting comfortable around Him. “He opened His mouth and taught” (Matthew 5:2). The spiritual truths He expounded on that day would later become known as the “Sermon of the Mount.” One of things I wish I could have seen was the looks on the disciples’ faces when Jesus began telling them about His dreams for His church, which at that point consisted of precisely them. They were a pretty non-impressive group; tiny pawns in a brutal world dominated by the mighty Roman Empire. What could Jesus realistically expect of them?
Jaws definitely dropped when He said: “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). How could these seemingly insignificant disciples be considered “the salt of the earth”? Why salt? In their world, salt was not only used to flavor foods but more critically it was used as a preservative. Without modern refrigeration, salt was rubbed into foods, such as meat, to preserve it from decay. So Jesus’ message was clear; the purpose for calling His disciples was so that they could go out into the world and be salt; engage in society; rub shoulders with the surrounding culture and the different communities and exert an influence that would hinder the process of decay in the world. Decay from what? Decay from the deterioration of God’s image in the human experience.
In a sense, the Christian takes a healthy degree of responsibility for the condition of the world…
Jesus’ words present a relevant challenge for us today. His message reminds us that the purpose for which modern-day disciples are called is to penetrate into secular society, to rub into communities seeking to restore back to God that which is redeemable. Theologian John Stott got right to the point when he said that Jesus never intended Christians to “remain snugly in elegant little ecclesiastical salt cellars.” In a sense, the Christian takes a healthy degree of responsibility for the condition of the world—our town, city, school and work. Society often reflects our lack of meaningful engagement with it. Whenever 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?”
If we are not challenged and inspired by Jesus’ simple words, it is because we don’t understand their significance. Jesus’ early disciples took those words to heart. And we too have the privilege of accepting that awesome invitation.