Salt and Light
(Mark 9.50; Luke 14.34,35)
13 You are the salt for everyone on earth. But if salt no longer tastes like salt, how can it make food salty? All it is good for is to be thrown out and walked on.
14 You are the light for the whole world. A city built on top of a hill cannot be hidden, 15 and no one lights a lamp and puts it under a clay pot. Instead, it is placed on a lampstand, where it can give light to everyone in the house. 16 Make your light shine, so others will see the good you do and will praise your Father in heaven.
The Law of Moses
17Don't suppose I came to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I did not come to do away with them, but to give them their full meaning. 18 Heaven and earth may disappear. But I promise you not even a period or comma will ever disappear from the Law. Everything written in it must happen.
19If you reject even the least important command in the Law and teach others to do the same, you will be the least important person in the kingdom of heaven. But if you obey and teach others its commands, you will have an important place in the kingdom. 20You must obey God's commands better than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law obey them. If you don't, I promise you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
Christians are often criticized as extremists. Normally when I hear this I feel offended. When Jesus makes the claim, it is harder to reject.
We really are extreme – at least we ought to be. Perhaps not in some of the ways we are perceived to be, but as faithful citizens of the kingdom of heaven, the label seems appropriate.
“I didn’t come to abolish the law,” Jesus said. “Your righteousness ought to surpass that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, or you won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” he says. “I didn’t come to abolish the law. I came to fulfill it.” If you want to follow me, you will stand out like a bright city on a hill – shining in the darkness that cannot be contained. You are intended to make a discernible difference in the world, like a strong dose of salt on a plate of food. If you lose that sense of saltiness, you become of little use to me.
Read through the rest of chapter five and you get a sense of what Jesus is talking about. Jesus’ concern is not that we meet the bare requirements of the law. Jesus wants us to exceed the law. The law is common to everyone. The law is what we use to regulate life on earth – to keep us from killing each other, for one example. But Jesus’ sermon challenges us to find another level. It is not enough just that we do not murder each other, but that we do not even want to. It is not enough that we do not commit adultery, but that we do not even do so in our hearts.
The law of the heart is the law of the kingdom. It may seem extreme, but it is what keeps us salty.
Dear Lord, I am not sure I like the idea of standing out. I naturally like the idea of blending in. Help me be courageous enough to appreciate the challenge of your calling. Help me want to rise to an obedience even of the heart so that I might shine in darkness. Amen.