In Matthew 5, Jesus declared that his followers were like salt and light in the world. But what does that really mean? What does it look like to others?
Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth."
Salt is an essential element in our life. If we don't have enough salt in our body, we can begin to experience muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting and dizziness. And unless some action is taken, shock, coma and death could ensue.
Conversely, too much salt in the body is equally damaging. It can lead to dehydration, organ failure and eventually death.
In culinary terms, salt is used to enhance the flavour of food. It draws out and amplifies the distinct taste of each food to which it is added.
But adding excessive amounts of salt means that the unique flavour of that food is smothered, and the salt is all we can taste.
Salt is necessary to our very existence, but it can also kill us. Salt enhances the taste of food, adding to the enjoyment of the flavour, but too much will mask that flavour, destroying it's distinctiveness.
As christians, are we enhancing the lives of others, or are we smothering them with our 'salt' until they lose their unique flavour?
Jesus said, "You are the light of the world."
A lamp set in a window. A light left on outside your door. The pictures those words conjure up for me are welcoming, guiding, hospitable. I think of a traveller on the road, cheered by the promise of safety and respite. I think of a friend visiting my house in the dark, and being guided to my door by the light.
But light can also be used to threaten and intimidate. How many old movies have you seen where a bright light has been used as an instrument of torture and interrogation. Can you picture the scene where the villain sits in a darkened room, shining the light into the hero's eyes, intent on forcing information from them. Or what about the scene where light is used to inflict sleep deprivation so that the victim becomes so delirious they are susceptible to brainwashing and control.
Depending on its use, light can be a welcoming guide, or an instrument of power and domination.
Is our light warm and invitational - offering sanctuary and rest? Or are we using it to control the behaviour of others?
I've seen a lot of unloving behaviour justified in the name of "being salt and light to the world". As those elements can both be used in ways that inflict harm, maybe it was true. But maybe that's not quite what Jesus meant...