Faith can become adulterated and lose its purityPublished 9:18am Friday, September 28, 2012
Across the Pastor’s Desk
By the Rev. Kenneth Jensen, retired pastor
“Jesus said, ‘Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another”’ – Mark 9:50.
Jesus, what are you trying to tell us? Pure salt, which is sodium chloride, cannot lose its “saltiness.” However, impure salt can be leached out, especially in hot humid weather. What remains is a tasteless substance. It cannot be “re-salted” as it were.
Salt is essential for life. In places without refrigeration, salt is used to preserve foods, especially meat, from putrefying. In a similar way, Christians are to be as a preservative in society lest it becomes “rotten.”
When members of a congregation refuse to discuss issues in an effort to “keep the peace” they lose their ability to be the very “salt” which will preserve it. Faith becomes adulterated, “watered down,” and slowly slips away. It loses its “saltiness” leaving a “tasteless” faith which may be impossible to restore to its purity.
However, taken in its context (going back to Mark 9:32) Jesus warns us of a hidden danger. Jesus tells his disciples it is better to amputate one’s hand or foot or to pluck out one’s eye than to sin and perish in hell. Ouch! I don’t see many one-eyed, left-handed, right-footed Christians running around. So, what gives?
It’s not about pointing fingers at others. More than moral behavior is at stake. It’s about a negative nemesis that infects us all: our tendency to discriminate against and our unwillingness to welcome into our fellowship people who fail to measure up to our standards of “pure saltiness.” We like to play the game of “Who’s In, Who’s Out.”
Too much salt can ruin good food. We can push our beliefs too far and destroy the good we seek to accomplish. All this business about amputating one’s hand or foot or plucking out one’s eye is about taking time for self-examination. Failure to “look into the mirror” and see ourselves for who and what we really are enables us make judgments against those who claim Jesus’ name but are not part of our group. The salt intended to preserve the church becomes a salt which destroys it.
Jesus links the imagery of having salt within ourselves with that of living in peace with one another. Peace is more than inner tranquility. Peace is the opposite of quarreling with one another. It’s about living in harmony with one another, listening to one another, accepting one another, forgiving one another. It’s not a matter as to who is right and who is wrong. People are different and differences add flavor to the mix. It’s about being a “salty” Christian.