Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Salt and light

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

I wonder why he puts in the part about the salt losing its saltiness. Because of course, I don’t think salt can lose its saltiness, unless it goes through some kind of phase change and becomes something else. Salt is defined by being salty, just like light is only defined by being light. What they are is completely identified with what they do, and if theoretically they could stop doing what by nature they do, they would have no point in existing, and no purpose at all. So following Jesus sounds like rather a terrifying thing, and he wants them to understand it. When you follow Jesus and become a carrier of God into the world, is he saying that that is now your sole existential purpose? You maybe used to have many functions, but as a follower of Jesus now you have one, by far the most important and exciting. But if for some reason you don’t perform that, now you have no function at all; you don’t go back to being what you were….? For some reason this does not really ring true, because of the passage about the shepherd always going off to find his lost sheep, but I guess that just means even if you do become good for nothing that doesn’t mean you’ve been abandoned by God.

But why does he give the warning? I can’t get rid of this ..uh… “elemental particles of God” idea. My feeling is that it’s to give an example of the existential nature of the change they undergo by being followers of Jesus. They are now a different substance, with a particular purpose. It’s not like by following Jesus they add some additional responsibilities. I guess it goes earlier with what he said about being a prophet… from what I remember of prophets, it’s something that takes over your whole life and is in every corner of your life, and defines how you relate to people and what you think about etc etc. Jesus didn’t say, you have salt and light, he says, you ARE salt and light.

This is interesting, because it seems like it takes away the element of choice from it. That doesn’t always fit with my experience (once in awhile it does). I mean, usually one has to try consciously and really hard to influence people and to let them know about Jesus. Though I guess that brings me to something that I skipped; what is that influence we are supposed to bring to the world? Jesus says to shine, so they may “see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven”. This suggests that the “shining” consists of doing good works, and by doing so, “illuminating” God to people. If like prophets they are a link between God and people, it is by what they do, it seems, that they will show God to people. I’m reminded of Christine’s theory about the Kingdom of God being on earth or not on earth… that elements of it seen and acted on Earth are not the Kingdom, but are signs for it, showing the world what it is like.

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