Salt & Light
“Salt & Light” by Interim Pastor Tim Morphew
There’s a Peanuts cartoon that shows Peppermint Patty talking to Charlie Brown. She said, “Guess what, Chuck. It’s the first day of school and I got sent to the principal’s office. And it’s your fault, Chuck.”
“My fault?” Charlie Brown challenges, “How could it be my fault? Why do you say everything is my fault?”
Peppermint Patty answers, “You’re my friend, aren’t you, Chuck? You should have been a better influence on me.” – Eric S. Ritz, Salty Christians
John Stott, (2) a highly respected evangelical pastor and author addresses a similar rebuke to Christians: diminishing
You know what your own country is like. I’m a visitor, and I wouldn’t presume to speak about America. But I know what Great Britain is like. I know something about the growing dishonesty, (3) corruption, immorality, violence, pornography, and declining respect for human life..
Whose fault is it? Let me put it like this: if the house is dark at night, there is no sense in blaming the house. That’s what happens when the sun goes down. The question to ask is, “Where is the light?”
If meat goes bad, there is no sense in blaming the meat. That is what happens when the bacteria are allowed to breed unchecked. The question to ask is, “Where is the salt?”
If society becomes corrupt like a dark night or stinking fish, there’s no sense in blaming society. That’s what happens when a fallen and sin-sick humanity is left to itself, when human evil is unrestrained and unchecked. The question to ask is “Where are the Christians?” – John Stott, “The Salt of the Earth,” edited, TSM
In today’s gospel lesson,(4) we hear Jesus tell his disciples that, (5) “you are the salt of the earth… [&] the light of the world..” Do you suppose that applies to us? I guess that depends on whether you think of yourself as a follower of Jesus.
Are you talking to us, Jesus? Calling us the light of the world?? Really, Jesus?? How can we be the light of the world?
Jesus doesn’t really say why, or how, he simply says, (6) “You are the light of the world!”
But no, Jesus, You are the light of the world. (7)
I can imagine Jesus challenging us: “Do you really believe that?” “Even in dark times, even in the face of vile injustice, do you truly believe that I am the light of the world?”
“Yes, Jesus, we really do!”
And Jesus might answer, “If you really believe it, then you will reflect my Light! Wherever you go, whatever you do, your faith & confidence in me will reflect my light to those around you. However much you believe it; you will reflect my light – the light that the world so desperately needs!
When the apostle Paul says (Philippians 2:15) that Christians (11) should “shine” like stars, the word really means to “reflect”. The scientific term is albedo. A star’s albedo is actually a measurement of how much sunlight it reflects. The planet Venus, for example, has the highest albedo at .65. In other words, 65% of the light that hits Venus is reflected. Depending on where it’s at in its orbit, the almost-a-planet Pluto has an albedo ranging from 49% to 66%. Our night-light, the moon, has an albedo of .07. Only 7% of sunlight is reflected by our moon, yet it lights our way on cloudless nights.
You could say that people have a spiritual albedo. Our goal? 100% reflectivity. (12) According to the apostle Paul (2 Cor. 3:18), We, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord. Mortals cannot produce light. We can only reflect it. – Mark Batterson, If: Trading Your If Only Regrets for God’s What If Possibilities (Baker Books, 2015), p.220
“You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world,” (8) Jesus tells his disciples. What Jesus means to us, what-it-is about Jesus that draws us to him is (9) what will draw others to him through encounters with us when the love of Christ flavors the way we live and shines in our lives.
“…light of the world,” “…salt of the earth…”
When it is dry, (10) salt has no odor, but everybody knows how it tastes. Dissolved in water, salt ions conduct electricity. We cannot live without it. Salt is essential in the diet of humans and animals and it is in our blood, sweat and tears. It is widely used for seasoning, curing & preserving food. – And, it makes a lot of things taste better!
The United States Dietary Allowance recommends that healthy adults consume no more than a teaspoon of salt a day. (11) And people with health issues such as Heart Disease, Diabetes or Hypertension should keep their daily salt intake even lower. Try cutting back on your salt. Any-one who has ever tried to reduce or eliminate salt from their diet can tell you how very hard it is to go without salt. Salt may be common; but how very hard it is to go without it!
Jesus says that his disciples (12) “… are the salt of the earth…” Followers of Jesus – at our best – like salt enhance life. As we live out our faith, it enhances the flavor of every day actions and interactions with good taste instead of blandness or bitterness. When we are most like Christ, we add a bit of zest to the adventure of daily living.
Timothy Keller observes, “The job of salt was to make something taste good. I don’t know about you, but I (13) corn on the cob is a real disappointment without salt on it. Yet, when I have eaten a really good ear of corn on the cob, I don’t say ‘that was some good salt.’ No, I say, ‘That was great corn on the cob.’ Why? Because the job of the salt is not to make you think how great the salt is, but how great the thing is that it flavored.
What if you are ‘salt’ in your small group Bible study? If you’re salt, people won’t go away saying, “That person really knows the Bible and had all the answers. Showed me up!” No. What happens is when [they] you go away from a small group in which you have been the salt, people don’t say how great you were. They say, “What a great study group.” “What thoughtful insights…”
It’s pretty simple. Salt enhances life. Christians enhance the joy of living… – Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentucky; source: Timothy Keller, The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Volume 19, Winter 2001) edited TSM
(14) “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world,” You know how in really, really dark places even a little light has an almost irresistible lure? In a similar way, our flavor and brightness as Christians draws people to Jesus.
It’s the difference between clouds and sunshine, between plain vegetables and salted vegetables. It’s something about the zest, brightness, and glorious wonder of life the way God must have meant for it to be.
Now please notice, S & B, that Jesus didn’t say, “you should be like light or salt.” He said, (15) “you are!” And if we believe in him enough to trust him, follow him, give ourselves heart and soul to him.. – If we believe in his ultimate triumph, then his light is already reflected in us.(16) If we truly believe that Christ’s resurrection is a foretaste of the day when GOD’s kingdom will come and God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, then our faith will flavor all that we do, our hope will shine through to sustain us and Christ’s light will shine into the future however dark or foggy it may seem at times.
Bathroom. While serving with Operation Mobilization in India in 1967, tuberculosis forced Doug Nichols into a sanitarium for several months. He writes, “I did not yet speak the language, but I tried to give Christian literature written in their language to the patients, doctors, and nurses. Everyone politely refused. I sensed many weren’t happy about a rich American (to them all Americans are rich) being in a free, government-run sanitarium. (They didn’t know I was just as broke as they were!)
“The first few nights I woke around 2:00 A.M. coughing. One morning during my coughing spell, I noticed one of the older and sicker patients across the aisle trying to get out of bed. He would sit up on the edge of the bed and try to stand, but in weakness would fall back into bed. I didn’t understand what he was trying to do. He finally fell back into bed exhausted. I heard him crying softly. (23)
The next morning, I realized what the man had been trying to do. He had been trying to get up and walk to the bathroom! The stench in our ward was awful. Other patients yelled insults at the man. Angry nurses moved him roughly from side to side as they cleaned up the mess. One nurse even slapped him. The old man curled into a ball and wept. The next night I again woke up coughing. I noticed the man across the aisle sit up & again try to stand. Like the night before, he fell back whimpering.
I don’t like bad smells, and I didn’t want to become involved, but I got out of bed and went over to him. When I touched his shoulder, his eyes opened wide with fear. I smiled, put my arms under him, and picked him up. He was very light due to old age and advanced TB. I carried him to the washroom, which was just a filthy, small room with a hole in the floor. I stood behind him with my arms under his armpits as he took care of himself. After he finished, I picked him up, and carried him back to his bed. As I laid him down, he kissed me on the cheek, smiled, and said something I couldn’t understand.
The next morning another patient woke me and handed me a steaming cup of tea. He motioned with his hands that he wanted a tract. As the sun rose, other patients approached and indicated they also wanted the booklets I had tried to distribute before. Throughout the day nurses, interns, and doctors asked for literature. (24)
Weeks later an evangelist who spoke the language visited me. As he talked to others, he discovered that several had put their trust in Christ as Savior as a result of reading the literature. What did it take to reach these people with the gospel? It wasn’t health, the ability to speak their language, or a persuasive talk. I simply took a [man] trip to the bathroom.
– Doug Nichols, Bothell, Washington. Leadership, Vol. 15, # 2.
Andy Crouch writes about a conversation with a pastor of a major church in Boston, who spoke about, “… a woman in our church who was the lead litigator for the Environmental Protection Agency for the clean-up of Boston Harbor. (17) It’s occurred to me since then that she played this incredibly important role in one of the great environmental success stories of the second half of the Twentieth Century. When I started high school, no one would put a toe in Boston Harbor, it was so polluted. And now there are beaches, and people go to the beach and swim. This Christian woman lawyer succeeded in litigating that case.” The pastor said, “The only time we have ever recognized her in church was for her role in teaching second grade Sunday school. And of course, we absolutely should celebrate Sunday school teachers, but why did we never celebrate her incredible contribution to our whole city as a Christian, for [making such a difference in] God’s creation?” – Andy Crouch, “Teaching People to Flourish,” PreachingToday.com
Jesus didn’t say that we should be like light or salt, he said, (18) “You are!” Then he calls us to let the Light that illuminates our lives to shine all around us, until it enlightens the world!
Matthew Parris (19) is a newspaper columnist for The Times of London and a self-described atheist. Surprisingly, though, in a December 2008 column he wrote an article titled “As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God.” Parris admits that saying this runs counter to his beliefs, but he cannot ignore the difference that he sees in African Christians. Parris, who grew up in Africa, writes:
Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it’s Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there…. (20) It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But traveling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too – one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African child-hood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.
Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects, and inter-national aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa, Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good….
[When I lived in Africa] we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world — a directness in their dealings with others — that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall. – Matthew Parris, “As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God,” The Times of London Online (12-27-08); Craig Brian Larson, editor, PreachingToday.com
Jesus says,(21) “You are the salt of the earth…. You are the light of the world…”
In his book, The Enormous Exception, Earl Palmer tells about a pre-med undergrad at the University of California Berkley who became a Christian after a long journey through doubts and questions. As a student he had been hit with a bout of the flu that kept him out of school for 10 days. (22) During that critical absence from his organic chemistry class, a classmate who happened to be a Christian carefully collected all his missed lectures and assignments. Then the Christian friend took time from his own studies to help his friend catch up to the rest of the class. (23)
Years later, the pre-med student, now a committed Christian, told Palmer, “You know that this just isn’t done, and I probably wouldn’t have done it, but he gave that help to me without any fanfare or complaints. I wanted to know what made this friend of mine act the way he did; I found myself asking him if I could go to church with him.” Palmer wrote, “I think the best tribute I ever heard concerning a Christian was the tribute spoken of this student. ‘I felt more alive when I was around this friend.'” – Lee Eclov, Vernon Hills, Illinois
Jesus didn’t say that his followers should be like light or salt, he said, “You are!” (24) Then he calls his disciples to let the Light that illuminates our lives (to) shine through us, all around us, until it enlightens the world!
In his sermon titled “Think Hard, Stay Humble,” Francis Chan told the following story about a man named Vaughn who radiated the love of Christ to everyone around him: (25)
A few years ago, a missionary came to our church and told a beautiful story about sharing the gospel with a remote tribe in Papua New Guinea. At the end of the story this missionary said, “I should really give the credit to Vaughn, my former youth pastor who loved me and inspired me to live for Christ and share the gospel with others.” The next week another guy came to our church and he challenged us to start sponsoring kids living in poverty. The second speaker also concluded by saying, “I’m involved in this ministry because of my youth pastor, a guy named Vaughn.” I found out those guys were from the same youth group!
Then the next week another speaker named Dan told us about his ministry at a rescue mission in the inner city of L.A. After Dan’s talk, I casually mentioned, “It was so weird: the last two weeks both of our speakers mentioned how much impact their youth pastor, Vaughn, had on them.” Dan looked surprised and then he told me, “I know Vaughn. He’s a pastor in San Diego now, and he takes people into the dumps in Tijuana where kids are picking through the garbage. I was just with Vaughn in Tijuana. We would walk in the city, and these kids would run up to him, and he would show such deep love and affection for them. He’d hug them and have gifts and food for them. He’d figure out how to get them showers. Francis, it was eerie: the whole time I was walking with Vaughn, I kept thinking, If Jesus was on earth, I think this is what it would feel like to walk with him. He just loved everyone he ran into, and he would tell them about God. People were just drawn to his love and affection.” And then Dan said this, “The day I spent with Vaughn was the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to walking with Jesus.”
Hearing this made me think, Would anyone in their right mind say that about me? Would anyone say that about you? … As I thought about all this, I prayed, “Lord, that’s what I want. I don’t want to be the best speaker in the world. That doesn’t matter. I don’t want to be the most intelligent person on the planet. That’s not what I want to be known for. I want to be known for someone saying, “Wow, he’s a lot like Jesus.” – Francis Chan, “Think Hard, Stay Humble,” PreachingToday.com
Bearing Christ’s light is something that real Christians can’t help but do, for those whose lives have been illuminated by the light of Christ can’t help but shed his light wherever they go, chasing the darkness before them.
Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth…. You are the light of the world…” O God help us to follow Jesus so closely that we are saltier, more shining witnesses to the Reign of GOD at work in our lives and in our family of faith. AMEN!