Being Salt for the Earth

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Salt therefore is a good thing. But if even the salt goes insipid, with what will it be seasoned? It is fit neither for the ground nor for the manure pile. It is tossed out.
Luke 14: 34-5

It is God, for his own loving purpose, who puts both the will and the action into you. Do all that has to be done without complaining or arguing and then you will be innocent and genuine, perfect children of God among a deceitful and underhand brood, and you will shine in the world like bright stars because you are offering it the word of life.
Philippians 2: 14-16

For a believer, the underlying dynamic in living is that of grace. That is, everything is a gift of God (“who puts both the will and the action into you”) and is thus to be given away as a gift. It is in this way that we are called to be the “salt of the earth.”

To live in the faith and knowledge that all is gift is not easy, however. As Jesus makes clear in today’s gospel, the cost of such discipleship is everything — to know all as gift we must not cling to or hold on to anything. In order to receive the life to the full that Jesus promises, we must not lay claim to anyone or anything as belonging to us alone; we can only know as gift that to which we recognize we are not entitled.

Yesterday was election day in the United States, a nation that prides itself on the claims, in some quarters, of being a religious, if not a Christian, nation. It may be legitimate, for those of us called to “shine in the world like bright stars” to reflect on the results of that election, not in terms of the competition or entertainment of the battle of the two parties but rather in terms of whether or not the salt of our faith has seasoned our political life or has rather gone “insipid.” Do we as believers spend more time asserting our “rights” to be heard and lamenting the perceived limits of our own prerogatives rather than offering flavor and light to the society by asserting the place of responsibility over entitlement? Do we, who have been given the gift of education and therefore some level of political power, insert into the political debate the voice of those who have no voice? Do we unflinchingly demand of our own generations that we leave to our posterity the gift of a habitable world that has been given to us?

In recent years Church leadership has been quite vocal about asserting the necessary place for faith in the public square. But that place we are demanding must not be merely a place for us to assert our own religious “rights.” Primarily it must be a responsibility to “season” as “salt” our public discourse and to shine into the dark places of our political life the light of “the word of life.” When our perspective as Church becomes defensive and entitled, the salt begins to turn insipid. In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us that the cost of discipleship is everything. If we truly desire to serve our society as a light of “the word of life,” we may have to forsake the places and positions of cultural acceptance and even power that we’ve spent the last century attaining. “If you do not relinquish all your possessions you cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14: 33).

The following comes from Rowan Williams.

First: if there is one thing that is the opposite of one kind of programmatic secularism, the kind that looks for final and decisive accounts of what things are good for in terms of profit and functionality, it is an attitude to the world that acknowledges that there is more to anything and anyone I encounter than I can manage or understand. What I see is already “seen” by, already in relation to, some reality immeasurably different from the self I know myself to be or even the sum total of selves like me. To grasp this is to see something of what the word “sacred” might mean. And second: grasping this fully has the effect of what Wittgenstein called having a concept “forced on you.” To arrive at a belief in God is seldom if ever the end-point of a single thread of argument. It is infinitely more likely to be the outcome of whatever prompts you to let go of the fictions of control, the notion that you “own” your body, your world, your future or whatever. Such a letting-go opens up the possibility of taking responsibility for meaningful action, action that announces the presence of the fundamental giving on which the world rests and entails also taking responsibility for the other, for the suffering, for those experiencing meaninglessness.

Rowan Williams, Faith in the Public Square

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