Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all
kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for
your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the
prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has
lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for
anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.
Like many people I am concerned by some things I see happening to our country. I am grieved by the coarseness of the culture, the immorality and division, and left wondering what Jesus wants me to do.
Pondering these questions leads me back to the situation in which C. S. Lewis found himself during the Second World War. The BBC had asked Lewis to bolster Britain through a series of radio talks about being a Christian in a nation at war. Those radio talks were broadcast from 1942 to 1944 and later published as Mere Christianity. In one radio talk Lewis drew on the imagery of a nation at war to illustrate what it would mean to follow Jesus in difficult times:
“Enemy occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”
As a follower of Jesus I am hearted by the realization that you and I get to be part of a great campaign of sabotage against the kingdom of darkness. As saboteurs we meet together, pray together and work together to undermine the divisions and barbarity of the culture. In saying that, I am reminded of my French professor explaining the meaning of the word “sabotage”. It comes from the French word sabot, the thick wooden shoe that striking workers hurled into factory machinery “to sabotage” and stop the machines from working.
In today’s scripture Jesus calls us to sabotage evil by simply being who we are: “the salt of the earth.” In first century Galilee salt was an essential for fishermen to preserve their catch. Without salt from the nearby village of Magdala, the fish that Peter, James and John caught would quickly spoil. Now, those same disciples, along with you and me, are to so live that we sabotage the rot of the culture by being God’s salt.
Notably, Jesus’ words about being salt in our world come as a completion of the Beatitudes. They round off Jesus’ pronouncements about the “blessedness” of a way of life marked by being poor in spirit, grieving our own sinfulness, showing mercy, acting as peacemakers, and even rejoicing and being glad when people revile and persecute us as followers of Jesus. That is the lifestyle that is salt, the lifestyle that sabotages the kingdom of darkness!
William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, was a devoted follower of Jesus remembered as a peacemaker among early settlers and Native Americans. Penn stands out for seeking to build a society based on Jesus’ subversive calling to be salt. He wrote in his 1682 “Frame of Government of Pennsylvania” what he regarded as the secret of how good government works. It bears repeating:
“Governments, like clocks, go from the motion men give them, and as governments are made and moved by men, so by them they are ruined too. Wherefore governments rather depend upon men than men upon governments. Let men be good, and the government cannot be bad; if it be ill, they will cure it. But if men be bad, let the government be never so good they will endeavour to warp and spoil it to their turn.”
Followers of Jesus have never looked to Rome, London, Brussels or D. C. to set the course for kingdoms and nations. Rather, they have always looked to the Rightful King who has landed and called them to be part of great campaign of sabotaging darkness. The American preacher and Senate Chaplain Edward Everett Hale, speaks for me today: “I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God I will.”
A fellow traveler,