Our scripture reading today was from the book of Matthew, and near the beginning of what we may easily state is Jesus’ best know message, The Sermon on the Mount. Jesus called his followers to the highest standards of conduct. He challenged us to “turn the other cheek.” He commanded us to love our enemy, to forgive those who do us wrong, and to make every effort to act with the purest motives. He said there are two roads, a wide road that leads to destruction and a narrow one that leads to life.
And here in today’s scripture, he calls all who follow Him to choose to be a godly influence on the world in which they live. Tough commands. Jesus expects the world to be transformed by our presence. Hear what Jesus said: “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.” Sodium Chloride, table salt just as you’d find in your kitchen. But your salt is pretty pure, quite unlike most salt in Jesus’ day. Salt then, was mined or quarried, and was never completely pure. Now and then, what they dug out of the ground was so impure that it was not very salty at all. Actually, about the best use they could find for unsalted salt was to spread it on the pathways to one another’s houses, as it would harden and create an easier walk. Jesus has already taught that his followers are going to change the world, and in this sermon on the mount he is saying to do it, we have to be pure salt, we have to be the real deal.
He is telling us that our lives should not be mixed up with any ungodly or un-Christlike impurities that rob us of our flavour: we must be pure, authentic, and simply not willing to compromise what we believe and whom we serve. When Jesus says:”You are the salt of the earth.” He is saying “Be Authentic.” Be the Real Deal!
Anything else is an inconsistent lifestyle, and an inconsistent lifestyle repels others from Jesus and his church. It repels people from coming to discover, experience, and know Christ as Saviour and Lord. So, how authentic is your walk? Are people around you drawn to faith by your life? Do the non Christian folk you meet recognise there is a difference between the way they live in the way you live?
It’s pretty common for people who do not have Christian faith or convictions, to encounter someone who does, then discover there is something of a disconnect between what they say they believe and how they actually do life. The honest truth for me is that I can think of dozens of times, recently, when my actions do not agree with my words, and it shames me. Probably true for you too. I often remind myself that I may be the only Bible people around me ever reads. In other words, I am asking myself if I am authentic? The real deal? What about you, today? Jesus taught us that we must not allow the impurity of the world dilute our saltiness. The key to authenticity, to being real, is to not try to be perfect.
In ancient Greece, great theatrical events, amazing dramas, were staged in large amphitheaters. No microphones or cameras or large screens – so they developed a style of drama that used masks. The masks made them look like the characters they portrayed. Built into the masks were ingenuous megaphones that helped to amplify their voices. As soon as an actor put on a mask and went onto the stage, they became somebody else. Anyone here know what the actors using this method were called? The Hypocrites.
It is sad but true that it is easy for church-going people to have lives that are simply just an act. A role to play. A mask to hide behind. There are many people whose lives are nothing more than a act. The Hypocrites. Listen to what Jesus says to us in Mathew. 23:25–28: “Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”
God wants to change us, but not superficially. He calls us to be conformed to the image of His Son. “Christians are to be the good news before they share the good news.”
Who remember the Peanuts cartoons, by the amazing cartoonist, Charles Shulz? In one of them, Peppermint Patty is talking to Charlie Brown, and she said, “Guess what, Chuck? The first day of school, and I got sent to the principal’s office. It was your fault, Chuck.” Charlie Brown responds, “My fault? How could it be my fault? Why do you say everything is my fault?” To which she declares, “You’re my friend, aren’t you, Chuck? Then you should have been a better influence on me.”
While Peppermint Patty was seeking to pass the buck, in a real sense she was totally right. We should be a positive influence on our friends. We all have influence, of course. It may be influence for good or for bad, but we have influence to every single person our life touches or interacts with. We are called by Jesus to be the Salt of the Earth. We all know that salt is a seasoning, a preservative, but unless salt comes into contact with something else, its influence is wasted. Salt dissolves and penetrates – it becomes invisible in order to have a visible effect. By itself, salt in a jar is just a jar of white stuff, and can’t do much just sitting there. BUT … rub it into meat, or add it to your food, it becomes invisible and it becomes what it was intended for all along … to be an influencer on the flavour.
So, I am wondering how much of a visible effect am I having on my world? What about you? What about the effect of this Chapel upon our village community and it surroundings? Are we having a visible effect on our world? Are we influencing the flavour of those that God sends us? Salt that just sits in the salt-cellar is useless. Christians who become complacent, who no longer share the grace by which they stand; who will not take a moral stand; who refuse to share their faith … are believers who are just sitting in a salt-cellar.
Our challenge from scripture today is pretty simple: am I the real deal, authentically Christian, or am I wearing a mask. If I am then perhaps I am playing the role of a hypocrite.
Our challenge from scripture today is to do something about become an invisible influence for Christ that brings about very visible influences for the kingdom of God. Influence that brings a delicious and desirable flavour into the lives of anyone God sends our way.
Our challenge from scripture today is to pay closer attention to what we say and do, all the time, because what we say and do carries influence upon those God puts into your life. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.
So let’s pray together …
Lord Jesus, thank you for telling us that we are the salt of the earth – we realise afresh today that we influence those around us whether we like it or not. Help us to let both our life and our light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Amen.