Illustrations of Righteousness

Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another. [Mark 9:50 ESV]

Illustrations used by Jesus are meant to drive home the point of His teachings.

Jesus has just come from being transfigured, changed back into who He really is, and then expels a demon from a child. He then explicitly tells His disciples what is going to happen. “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise” [Mark 9:31 ESV].

While they are walking, seeming to forget all which had just occurred, they argue amongst themselves about which of them is greater in the kingdom. Jesus tells them the greatest in the kingdom are those who serve, who place God before anything and anyone else. He draws a child into His arms and tells them whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me” [Mark 9:37 ESV]. They must be like a child, who naturally loves Him, to even enter the kingdom. Children are easily taught. People would be better dead than to teach a child to not love Him and to sin. He illustrates the gravity of sin by stating it would be better to physically cut off an appendage, which causes sin, than keep the appendage and continue to sin. By extension, whatever causes sin teaches sin and stymies God’s peace.

He tells His disciples that “everyone will be salted with fire” [Mark 9:48 ESV]. If I am correct in my assessment then “salt” is Christ’s righteousness, a fire which burns away sin.

Everyone is covered with Christ’s righteousness but not everyone stays covered. As the Holy Spirit convicts of sin and points to the grace offered by God through Christ the individual may respond with obedience or rebellion. God commands all to eat from the tree of life, which is Christ. His command is given but not repeated, issued by the direct command of the Holy Spirit to those created in the image of God and able to receive and understand the command. Obedience carries no merit but does bring the blessing of being in His eternal presence. On the other hand, disobedience does carry punishment, the consequence of existence away from the life sustaining presence of God.

Once righteousness has rooted itself in the citizen the affect is more righteousness. Pursuing righteousness produces righteousness. We are called to hunger and thirst after righteousness and in doing so God fills us with that which we need. Righteousness is not a desire or a want but a need. God has created us, and recreated us, in a manner which spiritually needs His moral character more than we need physical food and drink. We need His life to stay alive. It is the evidence of His life in us which the world sees. We are the “salt of the earth” [Matthew 5:13 ESV] which makes us the evidence God uses to show the unrighteous their sin. Because we pursue righteousness we love as only God will and we either draw people to God or they hate us because they hate Him.

But what happens to those who rebel. Salted with the fire of God’s righteousness they are snatched away by Satan because they do not understand it, or are enticed or driven away by the pressures of the world, or are choked and deceived by their own flesh. (See the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:18-23.) Mixed with the impurity of the world and sinful flesh the salt, through trial and testing, is leached away leaving worthless dirt. Those who had salt lost the salt through disobedience until what remains is a person condemned by God because of their one sin of rebellion.

It is no coincidence the last of the seven characteristics Jesus gives is peacemaker. He wants us to have peace with God which results in peace with those with whom we live and work. This is a dilemma. God’s righteousness in us will either draw people to God or drive them away. How can Jesus say “have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another”?

Jesus attracted people to Himself because He was righteous and at peace with God. Soon, others who pursued unrighteousness and hated Him would kill Him. Facing this depth of anger and hatred and bitterness from those who rebelled against God did not break His righteousness or His peace with God. He was willing to give everything to do God’s will and command. Again, we are faced with a mystery.  He cried out while on the cross “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” [Mark 15:34 ESV] and then “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” [Luke 23:46 ESV].

He rose from the dead, conquering death.

If our lifestyle and beliefs are not evidence of God’s righteousness as we go then we will either face God’s discipline or His wrath. Peace is the evidence of righteousness working in our life, first with God and then with those around us. Our peace with God, even while facing persecution for righteousness, is attractive. Being a peacemaker is a natural characteristic of the citizen of the kingdom of God.

So is eternal life.


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