You are the salt of the earth… [Matthew 5:13 ESV]
This verse is a warning.
Throughout the Sermon on the Mount Jesus warns those who say they are His but are not. His first seven statements contain warnings. If you are this way you are blessed. Conversely, if you are not this way you are not blessed. You are rejected or cursed. His warnings are subtle, easily missed by those who cannot hear or who cannot see because their ears are stopped and their eyes closed. To those who are His, who through the indwelling Spirit are changed from slavery to sin to covered with His righteousness, the warnings are readily apparent. Here is the heart of the matter. There are those who are His and those who are not, yet claim to be.
Jesus uses an analogy to describe the essential evidence of those who are His. They are His, being recreated and made into His image, to the core of their eternal being. Philippians 2:6-7 says Jesus has the form (morphe, that which makes something what it is) of God and a Servant, man as he was originally created, before the fall. So the Christian has the morphe of the true citizen of the kingdom of heaven. Just as the essence, the morphe, of salt is salt so the essence of the citizen of God’s kingdom is righteousness. Everything Jesus has said to this point, and continuing on, is the evidence of the righteousness of God working itself into the being of those who belong to God.
Jesus is speaking to the vital, eternal being of the Christian. He has defined that being in the first seven statements of this teaching. Christians are all of these things. Just as salt has specific evidences of its presence so to the Christian exhibits the characteristics of a regenerated, changed, person.
Salt of the ancient world is quite different from the modern, processed and refined salt found on store shelves. Not that salt itself is different but the level of purity is considerably refined more now than it was then. It was hard to remove all the impurities from the salt of Jesus’ day. So too, it was easy to add impurity to salt through everyday living. It was not uncommon for the salt in “salt” to leech away leaving only the impurities. God refines the Christian, through conviction and persecution, removing the impurities and leaving just salt, something universally useful and necessary.
We are God’s righteousness in a world dominated by unrighteousness. Everyone knows the difference between right and wrong. We all have a witness, in ourselves, of the implications of the moral law of God. While many can, through sheer will power, live up to the outward standards which define the moral laws only those changed, recreated and filled with the Spirit of God, can live, as an essential part of their being, His moral law. His indwelling Spirit does not preclude temptation and sin but guarantees our place in eternity in spite of our surroundings and failures. God strategically places us to grow us and convict those in the world. The more we wrestle with sin, fine tuning our understanding and living of righteousness, the more effective we become as His witnesses, the less we will compromise who we are for what the world is. We leave the world behind and, used by God, draw those He is calling into His kingdom.
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. [1 Peter 3:14-16 ESV]
Our lives, the deepest essence of our being, the morphe of the citizen of His kingdom, exposes His righteousness, His glory, His being, which impacts everything we do and everyone we meet.