You Are Salt: Part 2
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
Yesterday we looked at the analogy of salt, what it means and how Christians are called to be salt. We saw that Christians are called to engage with the culture by expanding human flourishing as God defines it, working to prevent the decay brought about by sin, disinfecting our communities from the effects of evil, etc.
Mere cultural engagement however is not enough. Achieving the ends of purifying, preserving, seasoning is not all we are called to do. We are called to achieve these ends by being the people Jesus called us to be, as we talked about last week. Jesus gives us both the means and the end. We are not free to determine the means by which we accomplish those ends. In the sermon on the mount Jesus is telling us who his followers ought to be, and as we saw last week it is through these people Jesus is bringing about his kingdom. Therefore, we must first be the people Jesus has called us to be. We cannot pursue the ends of Jesus by neglecting the ways of Jesus.
As an example, we cannot purify the culture while hating our brothers and sisters in Christ (5:22), lying (5:34-37), getting even with those who have wronged us (5:39-42), and hating our enemies (5:44-45). To engage in those types of sins of the heart reflect that we are not people who have been changed by Jesus.
As we have seen throughout this series (ie. Adam and Eve before the tree in the garden, human society at the tower of Babel, the Israelites receiving the covenant at the base of Mt. Sinai) we cannot achieve the ends of God (ie. gaining the knowledge of good and evil, bringing God’s presence down) without regard for the means of God. The story of history is the story of humanity falling into this way of thinking, this trap, that they can achieve the ends of God in a more efficient way than following the ways of God.
So we are called to be useful to the culture and to do so by following the ways of Jesus. There have been many different postures that Christians have taken in relation to the culture in the past. Tim Keller talks about the 4 of them:
- Purity from
- Defensive against
- Relevant to
- Faithful presence within
The calling of Jesus for his followers to be salt in the world excludes the purity from and defensive against concepts of Christian’s engagement with the culture. To be salt we must be a part of the culture instead of retreating from it. We must also be committed to making the culture better by preserving it from the effects of sin, promoting human flourishing as God defines it and disinfecting our communities from the effects of evil. These things we cannot do if we are disengaged or fighting against the culture with every step.
ff to 3:58 for additional content
Skye Jethani’s new book What If Jesus Was Serious
How would you describe your current posture towards the culture around you. purity from, defensive against, relevant to, or faithful presence within. How have you seen the temptation to achieve the ends of God without the means of God in your own life? What about in the bigger picture of how Christians engage with culture.