Avoiding Contamination

May 7, 2018

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. Matthew 5:13

Beginning in the early history of the church, monks set up monasteries and went off to deserted places in the wilderness to get away from all things “worldly.” But here’s the problem: Christians can’t be of any benefit to the world if we are totally separated from it. Like salt with food, we have to make contact. The challenge, of course, is to come into contact with the world without being contaminated by it because once we take on the “flavorlessness” of the world, we become useless to the world as well as to the kingdom of Christ.

Thirst for God

That’s what Jesus was referring to when He said, “If the salt loses its flavor, it is good for nothing” (5:13). The Christian who tries to blend into the world becomes contaminated by it and is good for nothing when it comes to preserving a righteous environment and stimulating a thirst for God in others.

Just as salt on an open wound stings, we as Christians, at times, have to say things that might sting and hurt people’s feelings or challenge their point of view. But we can’t draw back from that. That’s part of what it means to be “the salt of the earth.” When the church stops calling sin what it is, “the salt has lost its flavor.”

Once this happens, Jesus said, the salt “is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (5:13). I don’t think Jesus is saying that the “saltiness” can never be restored, but unless it is restored, the church will fade into total irrelevance and ineffectiveness.

Salt of the Earth

Jesus told that little band of men, “You are the salt of the earth,” and we are their spiritual descendants. We are the salt of the earth—have we lost our saltiness? As we live fully for Christ, we, with the rest of the church, will have a preserving effect on our society and stimulate a thirst for God in other people’s lives that will lead them to salvation.

Alexander Maclaren, a nineteenth century preacher from Manchester, England, wrote these haunting words, “Where are the Churches of Asia Minor, … of Alexandria, of Antioch, of Constantinople; the whole of that early Syrian, Palestinian Christianity: where are they? … ‘Trodden under foot of men.’ Over the archway of a mosque in Damascus you can read the half-obliterated inscription—‘Thy Kingdom, O Christ, is an everlasting Kingdom,’ and above it—‘There is no God but God [Allah], and Mohammed is his prophet!’” (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture).

The salt lost its flavor and was cast out. Interestingly, Luther and the Reformers believed that Islam was God’s judgment on a corrupted church and a wicked culture. History repeats itself—and it seems to be repeating itself today.