The Importance of the Ordinary
10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
13“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
14“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
15Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
One of the things I do quite often is cook for large groups of people. It can be a tricky deal. Everyone has different opinion about what is good and what is awful. The easiest way to ruin a dish for everyone is to put in too much salt. On the other hand, if you don’t put in any salt, the food is labeled as tasteless. Salt makes the natural flavors of food stand out and be noticed. Ask anyone who spends even a small amount of time with me and you’ll learn that I’m rather a mole person. I like it in the dark. Generally, it doesn’t occur to me to turn on the lights. But even I recognize the need for light in the world. Salt and light; two of the most common elements in the world and so lend themselves very quickly to use as an illustration for Jesus as He describes life inside of the Kingdom of God.
Keeping Jesus comments about salt and light in context, we see that in the verses just prior to these He tells the disciples that they will encounter persecution for living as His followers. But that should not deter them from impacting those around them with the Gospel. The faith is to be as obvious in them as salt would be in food or light would be during the day.
For us, salt is salt. You buy a package of salt in the grocery store and it will last you for years and years without losing its saltiness. When Jesus spoke these words, salt was not that pure. It contained many additional minerals and impurities so that over time, the salt could literally be washed away. You would be left with salt that wasn’t salty anymore. Over time, we too can allow the world’s influences to slowly wash away that which makes us distinctly Christian. It doesn’t happen overnight, but slowly we can begin to look more like the world rather than members of the Kingdom of God. Eventually, we will have lost that “Christian flavor” that makes us able to influence others for Jesus. It only takes a very small light to fill up a dark place. Have you ever been on a cave tour and had the turn out all the lights. Darkness can almost be felt in such a situation. But light one little flame and it takes over the room. Cover or snuff out that flame and you are once again plunged into darkness. As Christians we are the light of Jesus into a dark world. But we can choose to hide that light and the ways of the world take over once again. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, “A community of Jesus which seeks to hide itself has ceased to follow Him.”
These are incredibly ordinary examples of what it means to live in the world as followers of Christ. Life as a Christian isn’t mysterious or difficult to define. Jesus has masterfully declared in just a few sentences what the life of the disciple looks like. Now He encourages us to allow those spiritual things that make us different be evident to all the world. You don’t have to shout it out. Salt and light don’t shout. They simply influence.