“If salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot” Matthew 5:13
One of the biggest lies told is that nothing people can do can make any difference, that there is nothing that ordinary people can do to change things.
Desmond Tutu is said to have once commented, “Whoever thinks they are too small to make a difference has never been in bed with a mosquito.” Only Tutu could have fully appreciated what his remarks meant; a powerless cleric facing an overwhelming and violently repressive regime, he could have been swept away with one swipe of the hand, but he persisted.
Reading Scripture, Jesus expects people to make a difference. Christians can never be people who say that there is nothing they can do to change anything. Faith should be such that, whatever others might say, people don’t get discouraged, they don’t give up.
Sometimes, reading the Bible in church, the flow of what is said is broken up to the point where the emphasis or even the meaning can be lost; so it is often when reading Saint Matthew Chapter 5. The Beatitudes, verses 1-12, become cut off from the verses that follow that are a warning about being salt and light, and being thrown out if failing expectations.
Salt was not about adding flavour, about making something more tasty; salt in Jesus ‘ time was about preserving things from going bad, about getting rid of impurities. Jesus is saying to his followers that they are to be people who stop the bad and drive out the evil in their own times. Making a difference isn’t an option, it’s essential to being a Christian; failing to make a difference will mean being thrown out.
The faith of those who listened to the Sermon on the Mount; the faith of those whom Jesus promised eternal rewards because of their self-sacrifice and their facing persecution, seemed to disappear in the early centuries and a new sort of church emerged. It is hard to look at what the church became and see any sign of Jesus of Nazareth. The church took little heed of Jesus’ warning. It was afraid to challenge people to commit themselves to the sort of discipleship of which Jesus speaks.
The church fails to make a difference when it forgets Jesus’ calls us to be salt and light and it fails to be salt and light when it loses sight of the Cross. The Cross brings the church back to the physical reality of what Jesus endured. A church that was fully committed to the Jesus who dragged his Cross to Calvary would be very different from the Church of today. It is hard to imagine that Jesus would recognize much that goes on in his name. The Cross is very troubling for the Church. The Cross is ‘I’ crossed out; it contradicts all human ambitions, and hierarchies and power and influence—no wonder it is not liked., but when the church turn away from it loses its saltiness, it loses the power to make a difference.
Being true to the Cross means remembering Jesus as he was, it means we seeing faith as something where the first will be last and the last will be first. When Christians really live according to what they believe, then the world takes notice. If the world is ignoring the church, perhaps it’s because the church is avoiding the way of the Cross.
Making a difference means asking questions about the way things are; it means being troublesome, sometimes, it means being unpopular, annoying people. Jesus doesn’t say there is an easy option for people who don’t like the way of the Cross; he expects people to be prepared to make sacrifices. Christians in the first centuries were not troubled by being out on the edge of society. When they were excluded from the Jewish synagogues near the end of the First Century, they became an underground group. They faced a series of persecutions because of their refusal to deny Jesus, but the Christian Gospel was so strong that no persecution was ever going to be successful.
The Christians who made a difference in the passing centuries were those who asked questions and who challenged the way things were done. People who brought spiritual renewal in the church, people who brought social reform to the world, were people who were not worried about what other people thought. Putting their Christian faith first was what mattered for them.
If the church is in decline, it is because it has its saltiness. When people look at the church, do they see people who are making a difference to God’s world, or do they see a small religious group concerned with their own affairs?
What Jesus wants is people who try to follow his words in the Sermon on the Mount and try in their own puny ways to shape the world into the place he would want. The approach of Christians should always be to pray, to speak, and to act.
It is the responsibility of each of Christian to act for what is right, to ignore those who say that individuals can’t make a difference. Having the courage to act does not mean needing the confidence to imagine being a figure on the world stage, it means having confidence to be a mosquito, to know that the odds are overwhelming and that the opposition is immensely powerful, but to keep buzzing and to keep biting.
“If salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot”.