CHURCH CORNER: Jesus exhorts us to be the salt of the earth

A pastor was visiting with Chris and Kristi Ekans and Mrs. Rock, Kristi’s mother, who stayed with them. Kristi had tried in vain for years to get her mother to attend the church and be baptized. After seeing her pastor, Kristi and her mother began their traditional argument and finally Mrs. Rock screamed to her daughter: “Baptized or not, I am sure you will be where I will be after death.” When the pastor got involved he also learned that there was not much difference in the way of life between the daughter and mother. This reveals a crisis of Christian identity that scatters somehow or closes the doors of the church to other people. Does baptism matter anymore, what does it entail?

We were baptized because we met our lord and decided to follow in his footsteps. Unless it is an illusion or hallucination, every encounter with the lord is a life-changing experience. It is a call to an ongoing conversion and also the beginning of a challenging life, this battle between earthly desires and the ideal of spiritual life. Baptized in Christ we have become new creations - we are clothed in him and have received a Christian dignity with the hope to bring it unstained into heaven. By our baptism our life is changed and we are lifted up by Jesus’ grace and mercy. The light of the gospel should make us perceive the world differently. However, Christ will not invade our life and coerce us to change.

By calling us to imitate Christ, the expectation is not to follow the example of factories that produce artificial Christmas trees imitating the evergreen trees, thereby ending up being fake Christians. Christ uses powerful similes with respect to our new birth such as light of the world, city built on mountain, lamp set on a table, salt of the earth, etc., to mean our Christian dignity and expectations.

People think of salt as a flavoring or in its capacity to preserve food. However, for Jesus contemporaries salt also brought to mind a stove. In Jerusalem one would notice clay ovens next to houses using camel or donkey dung for fuel. A young girl was to collect the dung, mix in salt, mold it into patties and leave them in the sun to dry. A slab of salt was placed in the oven and upon it the salted patty. When lit, the catalytic properties caused the dung to burn. Eventually the salt slab loses its catalytic ability and becomes useless.

This is the cultural imagery Jesus had in mind when he exhorted his disciples to be the salt of the earth since in the Hebrew or Aramaic that he spoke the same word means earth and clay oven. To be salt for the earth-oven is to start fires and make things burn to improve the quality of human existence and preserve it from destruction. Doing it also makes us the “light of the earth” as Christ came to light the earth oven and even wished it were already blazing. Our actions should serve as a light in a dark world and we are challenged to let our actions shine as a witness to our fidelity to God. Our way of life should be a catalyst to light the secular world and be a compass for it. All the baptized who have lost their catalytic abilities, like Kristi and Chris, should be careful how they live and strive to offer a better version of themselves because they may be the only Bible onlookers ever read. Today our world needs more witnesses than key speakers. Faith without works is dead like salt without its catalytic ability is useless. Lacking to give testimony reminds us of our long journey to effective Christianity.

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