“You are the salt of the earth…” --Matthew 5:13
Cooking is one of my passions. I find a day in my kitchen relaxing and creative. I enjoy mixing and combining things, tinkering with existing recipes and developing my own. But, as a diabetic with high blood pressure, I’ve had to learn how to cook and create while avoiding things that could, potentially, negatively impact my blood sugar and blood pressure. While there has been lots of debate over the years about the relationship of salt to blood pressure, for a long time I have cooked “low-sodium.” The challenge of low-sodium cooking is that salt has so many useful and important applications in the kitchen. It brings out the flavor in foods, it acts as a preservative and plays a variety of roles in baking, including strengthening the binding power of gluten. Skipping the salt in recipes can result in weak, flat, and tasteless foods. These days, I use salt sparingly… particularly when baking bread and to bring out the umami (savory) flavors of meats, soups and stews.
Whenever I read Jesus’ statement about being salt, all those things go through my mind. As followers in the way of Jesus, sometimes, like him, we can raise people’s blood pressure. There’s a lot of debate about how and if people of faith should get involved in public life. I’m not going to settle that debate here. But, I think that, if our faith doesn’t have something to say to the issues of the day, then it is a pretty weak faith. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount has all sorts of implications for how we might engage public life. Starting with the Beatitudes and extending to his teachings about anger, relationships, retaliation and the love of enemies, his teachings have important things to say about how we engage with one another and the world around us. And some of these can be pretty salty!
God did not give us the Law and the Prophets to judge and condemn one another and prove the superiority of our own righteousness over and against our neighbors. In the same way, I don’t think Jesus gave us the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount so that we could use them to pummel each other! Salt is best used sparingly and with care. Jesus engaged the issues of his day, could definitely be confrontational, and did not ignore injustices and unrighteous behavior. But, even then, he treated his most ardent critics with compassion, going so far as to forgive those who were nailing him to the cross.
We are to be salt. With the love of God in Christ, we are called to bring out the many flavors of our world, preserve relationships, and strengthen the bonds between peoples. As Jesus says in the Beatitudes, we are to be a people committed to mercy, purity of heart and peacemaking. That’s a challenging way to live – especially in this divisive age. But, Jesus promises that there is a blessing in that, not only for us, but for God’s whole world.
It’s snowing and icy in Tulsa today. Helps me to remember that even when salt is thrown out and trampled underfoot, it has a purpose! Please pray for all who are traveling and negotiating slippery places in their lives.
Thanks for reading!