I believe there are some essential descriptions of Christians given by our Lord Jesus Christ that’s crucial for us in deciphering how we’re to respond in an ever-changing world. I’m certain that the Lord foresaw the days of every generation right up to the days of His Second Coming, and gave us keys to understanding how we’re to thrive in it.
Two of those descriptions given to His followers are that we’re the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matt 5). These are two very interesting descriptions, because each functions quite differently. On one hand, salt functions by quiet influence. When added as a seasoning, only a small quantity is required. It buries itself in the dish that it’s being used to season, but its impact on the flavour of the dish is immense.
On the other hand, light is confrontational. Light works instantly. When we switch on our lights, darkness is dispelled immediately. In the same manner as believers, we’ve two tools that we can use. We can act as salt and seek to influence and flavour our surroundings with the qualities of the Kingdom of God; yet at the same time, we can also be the light in our environment by confronting dubious actions that are contrary to righteousness and integrity. When we use which application is very much a matter of wisdom.
What’s interesting in Matt 5:13-16, is that we’re told our function as salt and light can be nullified. What nullifies our effectiveness as believers is never something external, but always has to do with ourselves. An interesting statement made by Jesus with regard to salt is that if salt should lose its saltiness, it becomes useless and can only be discarded. Chemically, this is not possible. Unless we change its chemical composition, salt cannot actually lose its saltiness.
What happened in the days of Jesus, was that dishonest merchants would sell salt that had been mixed with other things. This was not uncommon because of how valuable salt was. Should you have bought such salt that had been compromised, there was no way to separate the real salt from the rest of the mixture. Hence the whole bag of salt became useless. The lesson here is poignant. Salt loses its value when there’s mixture in it. In like manner, a Christian loses his effective witness when there’s compromise and mixture in his life. This is the mixture of sin. This is also the mixture of worldliness.
The verses that preceded the Lord’s description of believers as being salt and light are the Beatitudes. I’m not sure if you’ve read the Beatitudes carefully. If you have, you’d know that those qualities are not the easiest to abide by. If the truth be told, the Christian life is far from a walk in the park. In fact it’s strenuous, difficult and challenging, to say the least. It’s a call to walk in a manner just as Christ did during His earthly sojourn. It’s a call to humility, to accept injustice, to not seek self-justification, to love sacrificially, to forgive, to return evil with good, to be a peacemaker, to seek God and not self – and the list goes on. This is what the seed of God in us looks like when it’s fully grown and matured. It doesn’t require us a lifetime of practice, but it does require a constant willingness to surrender.
When the world seeps into our lives, so does compromise. We stop striving for the higher call and we become distracted and consumed by the present day pleasures on offer. The result is that the seed of Christ within us never matures. It never comes to fruitfulness. We become salt that has lost its saltiness. What about light? How does it lose its effectiveness? Well, the Lord tells us that when we hide a light underneath a basket, it will not be able to shine through. Here’s the challenge – are you an undercover Christian or are you all out, unashamed of Christ in you? When we seek acceptability and respectability more than we desire after being a witness for Jesus, our light becomes diminished. When we’re unwilling, afraid or ashamed of our faith, we’re effectively placing the light beneath a basket and covering it up.
One of the essential qualities that we must develop as Christians is to not fear rejection. There’s a certain stigma that comes with being a follower of Jesus Christ. There are things within our faith that are misunderstood and ridiculed. Let’s take heart that these things are placed there intentionally by our Saviour. Christ was Himself rejected by those He came to lay His life down for. He was ridiculed and mocked, and yet He loved to the very end. This is the divine example left for us. That is why Christ is also called the “Light of the World” in John 8:12. He was bold and unafraid to announce to the world that He is the only Begotten Son of God, the Messiah, the Saviour of the world, who lays His life down for all mankind. Salvation comes only through believing in Christ. There’s no other way.
As we end 40 days of prayer and fasting for our nation, I pray there’d be a genuine awakening amongst believers. May we rise up to become what God mandates for us to be – the salt of the earth and the light of the world; and make a difference wherever He has placed us.