“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”
Jesus loved a good metaphor. In the course of his ministry and teaching, Jesus uses a variety of images to describe the roles he hopes his followers (i.e. us!) will embody: light, sheep, servants, children. But perhaps one of the most unexpected roles Jesus gives us is salt.
Salt adds great flavor. When I visited Cuba in 2005, I learned that a tiny pinch of salt in coffee (with milk and sugar of course!) brings out the flavor. Those who have been on a low salt diet know just how much salt adds to our food. Salt that has lost its saltiness is not much use at all.
Salt can also be life-saving. According to the World Health Organization, diarrheal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under age 5, killing 525,000 children in that age group each year. Life-saving treatment consists of a solution made of clean water, sugar, and salt.
Jesus tells us, “have salt among yourselves.” We might say, Jesus wants us to be a “salty” church.
One of the connotations of the word “salty” in our language today is angry, bitter, or resentful, but that connection is a relatively new development. According to Merriam-Webster, during the 1800s, the word “salty” came to be used to describe various aspects of naval life, due to the association of salt with seawater. Because sailors had the reputation of being rather colorful and even crude characters, the word “salty” came to be associated with profane language and strong negative feelings. Of course, this does not seem to be at all what Jesus means, because Jesus follows the instruction to “have salt among yourselves” with the admonition “and be at peace with one another.”
The Oxford Dictionary offers some different synonyms for salty: lively, vigorous, spirited, colorful, sparkling, and zesty. These words seem to better fit what Jesus has in mind – a community of Jesus-followers who bring out the best in one another, who enhance one another’s lives and improve the lives of those around them, just as salt enhances and improves the flavor of our food.
So may we be salt to one another and to our community. May we enhance one another’s lives, may we bring energy and strength to our community, may we bring out the best in others because of the peace in us – the peace of Christ. May we be a salty church!
— Pastor Jennifer Rygg, 3/2/20