You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. [Matthew 5:13-16 ESV]
Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount is a description of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven and the evidence of citizenship. His first seven statements depict a changed person established in a relationship with God. Christians are different than those who live according to the standards of the world and their own flesh. This difference is a demonstration of God’s working in the Christian, setting them apart for His use and their blessing.
Persecution, suffering for righteousness’ sake, is the reaction of the world toward the demonstrated righteousness of God through His citizens. They hate God and they hate righteousness because it illuminates their sin and rebellion against God. Persecution is evidence the citizen is in God’s care and His enemies are not.
Citizens of God’s kingdom may react to persecution but continue acting in a specific way in spite of suffering. There is a difference between reacting and acting. Reaction is a trained response to a specific circumstance. Action is an essential part of the personality and characteristics of the citizen. Jesus states the citizen is both salt and light in the world.
Jesus uses these analogies to describe those who have been changed. Yet, those who are His are not “like” salt and light but “are” salt and light. It would be easy, like with Jesus’ parables, to allow these analogies to “stand up on all fours and walk away.” Let us not read more into the statements than is actually there. Jesus is speaking about the essential and eternal characteristics which make the citizen who they are.
Living according to God’s will is living against the tugs and pulls of the world. Our presence stands at odds to the intent of the world. Where those in the world hold their hands up in God’s face telling Him to leave them alone, God holds our hands out to the world, telling them to come and find peace. When we are the way He wants we will suffer for righteousness’ sake, just as Jesus did. We may not suffer physically, but we will face the persecution and slander of the world. This is evidence of God changing into the likeness of Christ.
Among the many things God is doing in the Christian two specific objectives stand out. He is preparing us for eternity. He is using us as witnesses in this world. God’s ultimate purpose for us is found in these two mandates.
In order to accomplish His unchangeable objectives we are aware of God as He exercises complete control over our lives and circumstances. He has bought us with the blood of Christ, and we are no longer our own. Realizing this truth changes the dynamic of our decision making process. We cease putting ourselves in the center, a constant struggle, and live knowing God is the only legitimate center. It is His responsibility to place us and protect us.
At the same time we have responsibility. Our responsibility is implemented though faith. We must exercise our intelligence, believing the evidence of His work. We must trust Him, exercising the moral comprehension of His law and allowing Him to use our emotions to speak warning and encouragement. We must obey Him, bringing our actions under His leadership. We do what He wants because we know Him and His will. Remember, our obedience carries no merit. God does not owe us when we obey Him. What He gives is free. We are God’s servants offering loving service to a loving God.
We are being changed into the likeness of Christ. The implications of this statement transcend the earthly witness, which Christ did, and places our focus upon eternity with God, which He has also done. Meanwhile, we are here and His and He want us to act like His while here no matter the circumstance.
You are the salt of the earth.
You are the light of the world.