By, Isam Itson III
“You are the salt of the earth.” Matthew 5:13.
In the ancient world salt was essential for preserving meats and other foods for consumption well beyond the harvest. Their descendants still use it today when they prepare olives. Traveling in Israel, I was able to taste homemade olives. Growing up in Southern California I had tasted olives right off the tree and they are disgusting. But I love prepared olives, so I was eager to give them a try.
Our host explained to me that we were eating last year’s fruit because it takes one year in the salt water for the olives to become edible and delicious. I don’t even have a category for how good they tasted. After a year in the salt, this hard, bitter fruit had become a savory, nourishing, delicacy. Totally transformed.
As the salt of the earth, God uses us to preserve, enrich, and transform the lives of the people around us. Jesus declares that we are to get close to those who are hopelessly decaying and dying in the darkness. Together, as members of our local worshipping community, we are meant to help the people in our surrounding communities. As we spend more time with them, they are brought closer to God and in the process they are influenced by the Holy Spirit and are themselves transformed into the image of God in Jesus Christ. Preserving and transforming salt is the picture of God’s people active together in the lives of the people around them.
We are called to share in God’s saving and transforming work in the lives of those we encounter in our daily lives where we live, work, and play. We are called to enter the lives of those who are perishing as well as living in meaningful relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are each of us called to follow Christ so that he can send us into the world as his ministers of reconciliation bridging the gap between God and people.
How do we connect with people in our communities? By nurturing relationships that connect people with God, in Christ, through us, from generation to generation. Mt 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
First, we must nurture strong relationships with each other as followers of Jesus Christ. The disciples, or followers, of Jesus Christ spent three years together walking with Jesus, everyday. Their lives were defined by their time with Jesus and each other. When Jesus called them to follow him they immediately began living with each other in submission to him.
The disciples were identified by their mutual relationship with Jesus Christ. They ate, slept, played, and even fought with each other as they followed Jesus throughout his earthly ministry. As a result they knew Jesus and each other like they knew no one else. These were the people who Jesus called his friends. They were the people closest to him on earth.
Second, we connect people with God in Christ by including them in our relationships with each other. These friends, Jesus’ disciples, the people on earth who knew him best, were the ones that Jesus commanded to make disciples of people of all nations, which translates to the Hebrew mind of the time as Gentiles. Jews had nothing in common with Gentiles. Gentiles were people that Jews had no inclination to spend time with.
In my words, Jesus said, “make them my disciples also. Call them to follow me. Formally acknowledge their communion with you by baptizing them in my name and the name of the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Get close to them. Live and work and play and break bread with them. Teach them to love one another, just like I commanded you to do. Help them become my friends as they become your friends. Identify deeply with them and allow them to identify deeply with you. Don’t disregard them because of their ethnic, cultural, socio economic, ideological, generational or political differences. Honor God’s love for them and love them as I have loved you.”
As the salt of the earth we spend our time, money, and energy honoring God’s love for people who do not yet know Jesus Christ. We welcome people into our lives for their good and God’s glory. And we do this as dedicated members of our local congregations.
1. Why is it important for us to attend church?
2. Do you see your current work situation as an opportunity to build relationships with your coworkers?
3. What are some ways you can grow closer in your relationship with your Heavenly Father?
4. What is your attitude toward “sinners”? How is your attitude reflected in how you spend your time, money, and energy?