Mark 9:38-50

 

Be a Salty Christian

 

Here is a puzzle:  Milk chocolate has salt in it; Dark and bitter chocolate has no salt in it.  Does that make sense to you that what is considered sweet has salt and what is considered bitter has no salt?  What connection can salt have with sweet?

 

Some people who aren’t supposed to have salt worry about the water they drink that comes through their water softener.  They wonder because there is some salt in that water.  But then someone found out that a glass of milk has in a natural way twice as much salt as a glass of water coming from your water softener.  A slice of bread from the grocery store will always have salt in it.  Does salt raise your blood pressure or doesn’t it?  What about salt substitutes?  Is there really such a thing or are we talking oxymoronic here?  And salt pills given to prolifically perspiring persons.  Remember those?

 

Salt is good though.  The very word salary comes from salt.  Part of a Roman soldier’s take home pay was a portion of salt.  He valued it.  He used it.  He counted on it.  Saline solution is good.  Saltine crackers…good, especially if the salt is sea salt.

 

There is no doubt after reading the words of our text this morning that salt is---can be---a good thing.  That is what the Bible says here.  In fact, being a salty Christian is a good thing.  Listen to the words: “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again?  Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

 

Be a salty Christian!

 

If we stop being what we were meant to be and were created to be, then what is the use?  Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again?  (In another place Jesus says that it will be tossed out and trampled on.)  God made us for something.  God made us to be something.  God had something in mind that would happen because of us.  We are his people with particular properties…like salt.  He even calls us “the salt of the world.”  You can’t make yourself one of his people.  He makes you one of his people.  You cannot give yourself truth and love and forgiveness and peace.  He has to do this just like salt cannot make itself salty.  It is salty.  There is a world of difference in saying to us “Be a salty Christian!” and “Become a salty Christian.”  You are a Christian because of what God made you to be.  You are not a Christian because of something you become through some work of your own.

 

Season all your grain offerings with salt.  Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.  Leviticus 2:13  The Lord who tells us to be salty Christians also said these words in the Old Testament.  He wanted his people there in the Old Testament to season all their offerings to him with salt.  Salt was valuable.  Salt on the offerings showed they were for God and special.  Finally, it was God’s command that his people make their sacrifices to him salty.  And they did that.  Salt in this figurative way makes us special too.  We understand that all that we have is a gift of God in the first place.  We cannot conjure up gifts to God out of the thin air any more than we can make salt salty.  

 

And salt is a preservative too.  That probably was its main use in the old days.  When Peter stayed with Simon the Tanner on the seacoast, salt was no doubt there.  Salt was used in preserving the skins of animals until they could be tanned.  Salt drew the moisture out of the skin and kept the process of decomposition from happening.  Even today big game hunters who go to Africa have their trophies preserved in salt until they can get them back here to tanners and taxidermists.  When Jesus tells us to be salt and when he speaks about us being “the salt of the world” he is no doubt speaking about this that because of Christians who live here, things don’t rot and decay completely.  

 

Salt is wonderful and unique.  Salt was special.  Salt was something God told his people to be.  But sometimes salt loses its saltiness.  That is what these words before us today warn us of.  In other words, don’t stop being a Christian.  God made you to be what you are.  God brought you to this state through the wonders of his word.  He made you a believer in him through baptism and promised you these wonderful qualities when that happened.  “Arise and be baptized and wash away your sin.”  That was God’s wonderful power at work.  “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”  Romans 6:4  We see the promise of Baptism and what it does for us in the further words, “(Baptism) saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”  You are salt because of what God does for you and makes you.  You are saved in Baptism not because of what you do but because of what God does through his water and his promise.  

 

Only God can make salt.  Only he can keep you salty.  God is the one who makes us Christians.  He is the one who has Christians have the effect that he wants them to have.  “He works in us to will and to do of his good pleasure.”  Salt doesn’t have to concentrate on its saltiness.  The white grains in a Morton salt box that brags “when it rains, it pours” don’t have to talk to each other.  It’s salt!  Salt is salt!  Christians aren’t Christians because they concentrate on the fact and do exceptional things.  They are salt and they are Christians because this is how God made them to be.  He gets the credit for their saltiness.  Being a Christian is not something you make happen.  Being a Christian is something you can’t stop from happening…anymore than you can stop salt from being salt.  That’s why Peter had to say when told to not be a Christian in Jerusalem, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”  Jesus had told him to be a salty Christian.  He couldn’t help himself.

 

So when Christians talk, they talk “that way.”  They talk like they have some special interests and special insights.  (They do!)  They describe Jesus like someone who has seen him.  (They have!)  They talk and when they talk people hear things that God says.  (They do hear these things!)  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.  Colossians 4:6  And in that other place where we worry about what it is we should say, especially in times of testing and accusation, our God says, “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”  Mark 13:11  Let the salt be salt!

 

When we are salty Christians as God makes us to be salty Christians, serious things happen.  One of the things that just precedes this section about salt is that of willful amputations.  This demonstrates serious salt.  A life that will not stand for anything to get in the way of it being what it is supposed to be.  Amputation would be the last and most serious of steps.  It is always done in view of what happens if it is not done.  And what will happen if it is not done is death.  It is that serious.  If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.  And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.”  And then the words follow, “Salt is good, bit if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again?  Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

 

So the bumper sticker really is right that says, “Not better, just forgiven.”  It says that about Christians.  And when it says, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other” it has to be talking about forgiveness.  Forgiveness is the only way we can have peace with each other.  We forgive trespasses against us because God forgives our trespasses against him.  That’s what we pray.  That’s what we believe.  We are forgiven!  Jesus does that.  He makes us people who are different.  We have a God who “makes” us forgiven.  He did it by his death.  He did it by his words proclaimed, “Forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.”  Jesus asked the Father to give us forgiveness.  We could not deserve it or demand it by ourselves.  White grains of sand could never demand to be salt.  God makes salt.  God himself makes and grants his forgiveness to those who believe in him so that they might be forgiven.  “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

 

And salty Christians can have forgiveness personally too.  It is not that they earn the forgiveness or somehow become the forgiveness.  It is because they allow God to be God in their own lives too and rejoice that he puts their sins as far as the east is from the west.  The Maker of salt is the Maker of forgiveness too…their forgiveness.  And that is what some of you were.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11

 

Just think of what you and I get to be!  We get to be salt.  God’s salt.  Powerful and preserving and persevering salt.  Salt is good!  Amen.