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Jesus' proclamation that he and his followers were the salt of the earth pointed to Christianity's role as a preservative agent, keeping societal decay at bay

In my last article, I promised to shed some light on Jesus' saying that His disciples are the salt of the earth. I promised to 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.

PMG FILE PHOTO - ROBERTSONAs I pointed out previously, the role of salt in Jesus' day was not to flavor food, but to preserve it. Because there was no refrigeration in those days, the ability of salt to stave off decay made it literally worth its weight in gold.

But salt was quite variable in its quality. Often it had a lot of contaminants in it, some perhaps introduced by unscrupulous tradespeople, but often simply because lumps of it were picked up along the shore of places like the Dead Sea, and they were then ground up for sale.

In order to do its job of preservation, the salt had to be relatively pure. If the purity was only 50%, it would take twice as much to do the same job of preservation. So, purity mattered.

The other factor in the salt's ability to do its job is that it had to actually get involved with the meat that it was intended to preserve. If you placed a salt shaker next to a chunk of meat, it wouldn't do the job. You had to get the salt out of the shaker and into the meat for the meat to be preserved.

When Jesus told His followers that they, and by extension we, are the salt of the earth, He was pointing to this preservative quality that we possess. As people in whom the Spirit of God lives and moves, people who can show others how to come out of the darkness and into the light, we have the unique ability to keep decay from taking root in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our whole community, not by fighting against it, but simply by being who we have been made to be.

But, like the salt, there are two factors that come into play which determine our effectiveness. The first is our purity. If we allow ourselves to become contaminated by sin ourselves, then we will be worthless as a preservative against the decay that sin causes in the world around us. So, we must be careful to not "give the devil a foothold" (Ephesians 4:27), to never compromise on our obedience to God's commands. And if we realize at any time that we have fallen into sin, we need to immediately repent and ask for forgiveness, getting rid of the contamination in our own lives that will negate the preservative effect we are to have.

The other factor is our involvement. As Christians, we tend to hang out mostly with other Christians, and only discuss faith matters among ourselves. And, whereas it is much more comfortable to do all our "Christianizing" in the salt shaker, that has no preservative effect on our society. In order to have an effect, we need to bring our faith into contact with those people and those places who need it most, and to do it on purpose. Many of us would be surprised at the people who are open to having an open discussion of spiritual things in our neighborhoods. And when we are willing to share that part of our lives with others who do not share out faith, we begin to have a powerful effect on our society and our community.

Will Robertson is senior pastor of Woodburn Fellowship Church of the Nazarene

in Woodburn. He can be reached at:

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