As we keep diving into Matthew, chapter 5 brings us to what many call Jesus’ “keynote address”- the Sermon on the Mount. It all starts with the Beatitudes, where Jesus tells us we are blessed when we are meek, merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers. But he also stresses that we are blessed when we are persecuted, insulted and falsely accused.
For some of us, verses 10-12 are tough to get our hearts wrapped around:
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (NIV)
But wait! Doesn’t our culture, and sometimes even modern day American Christianity, tells us to fight back and defend our rights?? Yes, but read the passage again and read this part carefully…”rejoice and be glad, BECAUSE GREAT IS YOUR REWARD IN HEAVEN.” Yea, I bolded the last part. Why? Because sometimes we get caught in the trap of the world’s ways; in other words, we’re too nearsighted to think that this world is not our eternal home. To wait for our reward?? To be patient? To not be able to put those evil-doers in their place? Well, that’s just too much to ask, right? NO. This is where we, as followers of Christ, separate ourselves from the world’s thinking by being OK with letting the reward come in God’s timing, not ours.
Then we get to one of my favorite parts of Matthew: verses 5:13-16, where we are told that we are salt of the earth and the light of the world. What does that mean? Two years ago, in preparation for the 2008-09 school year, our WNZR staff adopted “Shake and Shine” as our theme phrase…you may remember it from Lifeline 2009. I did some reading on this passage and here are some things I discovered…
One function of salt is as an antiseptic, so how can we apply this to what Jesus said? Well, just as salt keeps meat from rotting when it is rubbed into it, we should be engaged with the rotting world we live in. Salt will do no good to meat unless it is rubbed into it. So, we are to be in the world so that the world may benefit by our difference. That also means we must be careful to avoid the mistake of being one with the world and embracing its values and ways.
Salt is white, symbolizing purity. Christians are to be in the world and yet live pure, different lives. Jesus didn’t say you “could be” or “should be” the salt of the earth…he said YOU ARE the salt of the earth! Big difference.
Also, salt causes people to become thirsty. In the same way, we should cause people to thirst for Jesus Christ and his good news. If we live as Christians daily for God’s glory, those around us will hopefully desire to have the joy we do!
But remember…we can lose our salt by all the impurities we fill ourselves with. Jesus said that if salt lost its saltiness, it would become useless and worthless. How do we lose our “salt flavor?” When we conform to the pattern of the world (Romans 12:1-2), when we embrace the selfish values of the world like materialism and pleasure-seeking. We start rotting like the world.
We cannot benefit the world when we are like the world. Christians are to reflect the light of Jesus to the world. And what is this light? It is the light of salvation, eternal life, knowledge of God, and hope. Light should allow us to see people as they are- people who were created in the image of God and who Christ died for! Not just evil people to kick to the curb.
Light also helps us gain perspective…when things are spiraling out of control, we must be the calm in the storm…the light in the darkness!
So…how’s your salt? How’s your light? What can you do this week to “shake and shine??”