Part 2 - Matthew 5:13-16


So, who are the followers of Christ? First of all, they are the blessed ones. They are those who enjoy God's blessing. They follow The Blessed One, Christ Himself. Their blessing is seen here on earth in their poverty of spirit, mourning over sin, evil, and death, aching for righteousness, seeking to bring about shalom, looking for how God is connected to all that is around them, being merciful, etc. As we have seen, this is also how we see Christ's blessedness, for all these characteristics are first true of Him. Second, though, the followers of Christ are the persecuted ones, following The Persecuted One. By God they are blessed, by the world they are resisted. Even though the kingdom of God brings new life, comfort, right relationships and well-being, the world is not welcoming.


The world doesn't feel like home to those in God's kingdom. Jesus tells them that is because they are not a part of the world. Rather as members of His kingdom, they have a special relationship with the world. They are salt. Salt is not the food. It is put on the food for the purpose of flavoring or preserving. It benefits the food by its presence. In some way then, our presence in the world is for its benefit, regardless of the way the world may treat us. We have not been taken out of this broken world because our presence here makes a difference for the better. God's kingdom through us is preserving and bringing out the best of this fallen, sinful world.


"You are the light of the world," Jesus tells His followers. This image, like the previous one, tells us that this world is not our home. This world is darkness. We are light. We can shine into the darkness, but we are not the darkness. Light provides a way to see in darkness, a way to come out of the darkness. Without light, there is no way to turn from the darkness, to consider any alternative to it. So our being the light of the world means that we are still here, enduring resistance and often great persecution, because we point to a way out of the darkness.


These are amazing statements Jesus is making to His followers. First of all, He is telling them that this world is not their home. Actually, He has been telling them this all along. No wonder the characteristics of the blessed are not what we would immediately expect! Because these are the blessed of God, not the blessed of or by this world. And all these characteristics, as we have seen, are about longing for what cannot be found readily on this fallen earth. Now with these images of salt and light, Jesus helps His followers to see more clearly their real relationship to the world around them. No wonder I don't feel like I fit here--I don't. I can't find my peace, identity and life in the world because I am not of the world. But somehow my being in the world has a benefit to the world. In my blessedness, I am a blessing to the world even if it resists!


Does the world recognize me as a blessing? No. As we have already seen, the world will often react in a defensive or hostile manner. But the world's response does not tell me the truth of who I am and why I am here. We are salt and light already. We are not salt and light only when the world recognizes us as such.


After both of these images Jesus makes some comments about being ineffective as salt and light. He tells His followers that salt that has lost its taste is no longer any good. It has lost its whole purpose as salt. Without its taste, salt is unable to be salt. In the section after telling them they are the light of the world, Jesus speaks of the uselessness of hiding one's light. You might as well not have a light if you are going to cover it up because then it cannot function as it ought.


What is Jesus saying here? In order to understand how we might loose our saltiness or hide our light it would be helpful to consider how it is that we are salt and light. Since this immediately follows the beatitudes, it seems clear that we are salt and light in our blessedness. That is, we are salt and light when we are poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering after righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, making peace, and being persecuted for Jesus' sake. When we live in our poverty of spirit, etc. we point to the truth that we are created to find our real comfort, home, peace, and life in God. And we are salt and light to the world in our blessedness because they too were not created to find their identity and life here in this fallen world. We are all created to find our true joy, the fulfillment of our deepest longings in knowing our Creator. (to be continued)


David Jones with excerpts from CD