Jesus said, “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. ” I cannot tell you how many sermons I have heard preached on these simple words. Time and time again I have heard pastors preach on our need to be a preserving and gentle healing presence in the world while they stutter over the strange language of salt losing its saltiness. As usual, the seemingly simple sayings of Jesus leave us scrambling and scratching our heads.
There is a famous lake in Senegal, Africa that has such a high salt content that the water is pink. When I was a child our family visited the lake and, after my sunscreen had been lavishly applied, I ran straight toward the water as fast as my little legs would carry me. I splashed into the water, screamed at the top of my lungs and dashed back up the beach as the salty water stung like fire on the little cuts I had on my leg from a recent tumble. This was my first experience with the painful power of salt.
If we are the salt of the earth, then we are called to be a stinging, cleansing force in the places of brokenness of the world. You can imagine just how excited the world is for a good, solid salting. After my first encounter with Pink Lake, I never got back in the water.
The world is not looking for salt. In fact, the world doesn’t think they need salt. The world would rather have sugar. But Jesus never said “You are the sugar of the world.” Christianity is not a spiritual trick or treat fest. Jesus called the Church to step into the difficult and dark places of the world and bring healing, even though they would not be welcomed with open arms. Without pain there is no healing, and so for the sake of the world Jesus called us to be stinging, healing, life-giving salt. Prepare yourself; this is no easy task. But if we really love our neighbors and we know they are sick, it is not enough to speak candy words over them. We have to roll up our sleeves and break out the salt. To be salt is to love. So … if you don’t mind … please pass the salt.