Church has contributed to society's decay
In my last article, I painted a picture of what the culture of the country was like when I was younger, back in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. And I made the statement that a lot of us older folks wonder what has happened to the country to get us to where we are today.
Some try to blame things like the counterculture movement that began in the '50s with the beatniks and morphed into the hippie movement of the late '60s and '70s.
Some point to rock music, which came into vogue during the same era. Others point to political events like the Cold War, the civil rights movement, the assassination of John and Bobby Kennedy, and the uproar over Vietnam, that divided us as a country and destroyed our faith in the ability of the government to fix our societal problems.
But I have a different view, one that is more controversial, and far less comfortable for a lot of people. And that is that the root of the problem, the source of the decay in our society is the failure of the Christian church to be and do what it was created to be and do.
Understand that I love the church. I have dedicated my life to loving and serving the people that make up the church, not only in America, but around the world as well.
But, much like a physician who has to give a truthful diagnosis to a favorite patient if there is going to be a cure, I must point to a failure by the church to live up to its potential as a key factor in our culture's decline.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His followers, "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." (Matthew 5:13 New International Version)
I have heard many sermons on this, most of them talking about how salt makes things tastier and more palatable. After all, imagine eating a boiled egg or popcorn without a little bit of salt. Ugh!
But in Jesus' day, salt was not used for flavoring food. It was used for preserving food. Since there was no refrigeration, any meat that needed to be kept had to be soaked in salt and dried. Because of the ability of salt to do this work of preserving meat, it often literally was worth its weight in gold. In fact, our word "salary" goes back to a Latin word that literally means "salt money."
When Jesus said that His people are the salt of the Earth, He was talking about our ability to preserve society, to keep things from sliding into chaos and anarchy.
And when He talked about the salt losing its saltiness, He wasn't referring to salt losing its salty flavor (scientists have discovered that even a single grain of salt can be tasted when it is dissolved in a cup of water). He is talking about the salt not adequately acting as a preservative.
Salt in Jesus' day was a highly variable product. It was gathered on land that was or had been covered by a salty body of water, and it had various amounts of contaminants in it, ranging from tar to sand.
If there was too much contaminant and not enough salt, the salt water that the meat was soaked in would be too weak to adequately preserve the meat. If the meat that you tried to preserve quickly spoiled, the salt was written off as "bad salt" and thrown away.
To be effective, the salt also had to be used correctly. It had to be actively involved in the process of preservation, penetrating deeply into the meat that was to be preserved. If you simply coated the outside of a chunk of meat with a layer of salt, the outside might be preserved, but the inside would quickly rot, spoiling even that which was in contact with the salt.
In the next article, I will show how this saying of Jesus relates to the church as a whole, the problems that it warns us about, and what we can do about it today to get back on track with what we are to do and to be as the church.
Will Robertson is senior pastor of the Woodburn
Fellowship Church of the Nazarene in Woodburn.
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