Jesus continuing his sermon on the mount, getting into the meat of his teaching. This sermon is the manifesto of the kingdom of God in Christ. The Beatitudes are merely the preamble, the introduction, turning upside down the assumptions of those hearing Him regarding the accessibility of the kingdom of God and the acceptability of certain groups of people assumed to be unacceptable and cursed by God.
We need to be reminded again that Jesus is speaking here to his disciples, those who had said “yes” I want to following Jesus. If we’ve said “yes” to following Jesus, then by extension He’s still speaking to US today.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Let’s take lots of pressure off ourselves, we who attempt to follow Jesus today. This is going to come as a shock to a lot of people. But, we are not called by Jesus to change the world, at least not directly.
Take that pressure off ourselves, and let’s free ourselves to follow Christ, to live in the Jesus way. Because if we think it’s our job to somehow change the world for Jesus, we open ourselves up to all kinds of temptations, none more so than the temptation to political power. This specifically was the third temptation of Jesus, the temptation to fight the world as the world fights, the temptation to try to grab the sword of Caesar. Jesus overcame this temptation, realizing it was from the devil and not from God, and now we must overcome it.
Because the most embarrassing moments in the history of the church come when the church sells its soul for political power. Whenever the church reaches for the sword of Caesar, we let go of the cross of Jesus Christ.
Beginning with the corruption of Christendom which began under Constantine and really is only coming to an end world wide right now, to the medieval crusades, and even the German Christian movement of the 1930’s which saw 90% (!!!???) of evangelical pastors in that nation pledge their allegiance to Adolf Hitler. They put their allegiance to nationalism and patriotism above their allegiance to Christ.
If we are to be genuine followers of Jesus, we have to live the Jesus way. If we call ourselves Christians, and we do, then it’s not enough to walk and live in the way of the world around and simply claim we are doing it all in His name.
The Kingdom of God comes without the political sword. The Kingdom of God is without coercion. We who follow Christ persuade using not the sword or political force, but love, witness, reason, rhetoric, and if it need be, martyrdom, but never force.
Our job as given by Jesus is not to change the world, but rather we are to simply be the part of the world already changed by Christ. This really should be a relief. We don’t have to run around changing the world. We just need to be the church.
The center of what God is doing is among those committed to following Jesus. But – we must live as the people of Jesus. As people of Jesus, we must fight the temptation to shaped primarily by our nation and prevailing culture, what Jesus calls “the world”. Instead, we must be different, set apart by the values and habits we learn from Jesus.
When we get baptized we leave the kingdom of the world and exchange it for the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God has new values and new habits than the ones we’ve learned from the world. As we embrace the new values and new habits which Jesus teaches, we become new, distinct people, people changed our n the inside. We are not simply people with a new eternal destination.
Jesus tells us we are salt and light, not that we will become salt and light. We are to be known and seen as being different by our lifestyles. We don’t become salt and light by evangelizing, preaching, teaching, or talking about Jesus. If we are following Jesus, becoming all he intends for us to be, then we are salt and light for the world around us. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Our good works here are not us running around trying to spread the gospel and tell the world about Jesus. Our good works Jesus is talking about are the very lives we lead, not all the things or tasks we run around trying to complete.
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. This is an ominous warning from Jesus, and we need to hear it. What is salt that has lost its flavor? Good for nothing except to be trampled underfoot! It is inauthentic Christianity, a Christianity in which we don’t live and walk in the Jesus way, but we live and walk in the way of the world around us claiming we do it all in Jesus’ name. Salt without flavor is claiming Jesus as Lord, getting “saved” then going to help the Nazis win the war.
Salt without flavor is coming to church on Sunday, claiming the grace of Jesus Christ for ourselves, then living the rest of the week as though we’ve never met him.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the great theologians of the 20th century despite being executed by the nazis at the age of 39, once wrote “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Sounds kind of like Jesus saying “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 ESV.
It’s the journey of following Jesus which saves us. The world says the means justify the ends, but Jesus shows us that, actually, the means which are the ends. It’s as we walk in the steps of Jesus on this journey, as he bids us come and die. It’s on this journey that he forms us to be salt and light, adding flavor and light to the world around by the lives we lead.