- The Purpose of Salt — Being a Positive Influence
For the Whole of Their Life.
The Purpose of Salt — Being a Positive Influence
The theme for our entire organisation this year is 'Influence', and our young people will be spending the whole year examining various ideas around this concept. In fact, we have started digging into ideas already. There are so many rich and beneficial facets to explore.
Salt and Light
13 “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 underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
This passage was written 2000-ish years ago, and people valued salt differently. It was so expensive and important, that it was actually used to pay Roman soldiers at the time. It could be traded for almost anything because of how important it was to the people in the day.
It's two main uses were to preserve, and to flavour; to some extent, we still use it in this way today.
There were no refrigerators 2000 years ago. One of the most effective ways to preserve any meat was to take it through the process of 'salting'. This essentially meant the meat was sliced, dried, and coated in salt... so much that the outside of it (and sometimes the inside) was sterilised. We use the same process, with some extra steps, to create beef jerky or biltong today. If you have never had this, then imagine a thinly sliced piece of meat, dried and salted. It is very chewy, very salty and a little bit like eating Vegemite-flavoured leather (my personal opinion, sorry).
The salt significantly delayed the decay that is inevitable from meat when not refrigerated or frozen, allowing for the benefit of the nutrients to be enjoyed over a longer time, making for a healthier population, a strong soldier... and so on.
So what? A fair question.
Let me put it another day, if we are the salt of the earth, perhaps one of our main jobs is to preserve the earth — to preserve standards in society, to make sure that our world and our society does not decay to a point where there is nothing good or useful remaining.
This is what it means for us to be 'salt'. We are tasked with preserving the good within our would. To defend what needs to be defended, to stand up for those who cannot defend themselves; to make a stand on issues that matter. This is no small challenge!
But, let's stop and think about how salt does this job.
It does not stand at a distance and point, judge or yell. What it does, is get in contact with or be next to the thing that it is trying to preserve. What a wonderful analogy for how we should be doing life as Christians; working alongside all within our society as we do our utmost for God to preserve those Christian fundamental foundations that our culture is built upon.
2000 years ago, salt was also used to enhance flavour; to make things taste better. We do the same thing today. We use salt to flavour so many things. One of my personal favourites is to enjoy a piece of buttered toast with some cheese, and freshly sliced tomato with just the right sprinkling of salt (and a little bit of pepper). This is one of my favourite easy breakfasts.
Salt is used to make things fast better... we use it in the preparation of vegetables, meats... we even enjoy salted caramel dessert... making anyone else hungry?
The analogy applies to use today also. We are supposed to bring a better flavour with use wherever we go. Whatever room we walk into should be made to feel better simply because we walked into it. Our attitude, the way we treat people with respect and dignity, the smile on our faces, the way we respond to difficult situations, or ever difficult people, should bring a better feel (or flavour) over very time. We should make a place and a situation better by our presence.
This is not an excuse to yell our agenda loud, this is an example of bringing a better influence into every situation we find ourselves in. It should be our mission to enhance every sphere of our lives, and to make each one of these feel better by being an influence in the middle of all the other 'tastes'.
What we have to remember also, is that too much salt on my cheese and tomato toast will actually wreck my favourite breakfast toast combination; it's a fine balance in the usage. If we apply this to the analogy, they a Christian's mission as an influence should not be to control, but instead to compliment the flavours and voices around us — something we all (Christian or not) get wrong sometimes.
So, if we are going to be salt, we need to make sure that we are,
- Preserving the world around us. Stopping the rot, guarding against decay.
- Bringing a better 'flavour' to every situation — we should make the world around us feel better.
There are other uses for salt that have other fascinating parallels for us to dig into, but we'll make sure to touch on that later in the year. We haven't even had a chance to talk about what it means for salt to lose its saltiness (yes, that is a thing), or the second half of the passage above where we look at what it means to be light. I look forward to unpacking more of these ideas over the course of the year as we investigate the idea of influence together. There are important discussions, and as we look at the world around us, I'm sure you can agree, some flavour enhancement and preservation would not go astray!
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