“You are the salt of the earth.
But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?
“You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.”
“Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.”
With three little descriptions, Jesus gives the defining character of his followers, and of Christianity. Christians are not defined by who they are as an ethnicity, but instead by an ethic: not what they are but what they do. The salt of the earth gives flavor to life, and it is abundant. Salt brings something to the table as it enhances that flavor. Salt of the earth is an interesting counterpoint to the fire tried gold of the old testament. Like salt as seasoning, it does not necessarily replace that description of Gods chosen people as being like fire tried gold, it enhances it; for the Gold analogy relies on what is done to form a people and that salt analogy gives hint towards a function of those people. It calls Christians to bring something to life, their character or their unique characteristics.
You are the light of the world also gives function to these Christian disciples. If salt interacts with a sense of taste, then light does the same with sight. It is through a persons senses that one interacts with the world. The sense of touch, taste, sight, smell and sound. That light is to be seen, and Christians are called to leave a visible mark on life. One that guides others. Around Galilee there was a city that sat atop a hill that was built to shine as a light of progress, and as a crown of an empire. Jesus reference does describe that same very visible presence that he wants his disciples to cultivate. His interest is not in a hidden Christianity, but a vibrant one. In Christ’s command to Christians, his is not a call to who they are but what they should be. Theirs is a visible mark on the world, and a light to draw people towards Christ. Not the candle hidden in a church, but the neon of Manhattan.
Might these two simple descriptions be Jesus early call to evangelization? Might it be His call to have his followers interact with the world on that worlds terms? So much of culture tends to draw people into separate isolated groups. Salt by itself has little value, but when it is added to a food and mingles with it, its value becomes known. As Jesus so clearly states, a light that is unseen really does not serve its purpose. To Christ’s audience, and that includes today, being seen as Christian and acting as Christian is a hurdle to overcome. People were comfortable within the confines of their cultures, yet they were also frightened of those that surround them. Breaking out of cultural boundaries, and out of ethnicity was and is not easy. Seeing people as Christians, and not Roman, or Greek, or Jew, or Eastern European, or Western European, or Asian , or Mid-eastern, or White, or Yellow, or Black, or Red is not easy. It requires that the Christian make their Christianity more recognizable than their race, and for Christians to overlook that race to see Christ; and that is not by birthright or flag, or emblem but by action and behavior. It is to be Christ like.