“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.”Matthew 5:13-16
July 4, 2022. Today I feel drawn to this teaching from Jesus. I think the words are especially relevant to this great national Independence Day celebration because they are so aspirational (and if the USA has always been anything, then it has been that). And also – importantly – because Jesus wasn’t speaking to a church full of Christians (they didn’t exist), or even Jews, but to people, just a bunch of people – Jews, Romans, Gentiles etc. – who had gathered on the hillside to listen to the Great Teacher.
The above passage comes from the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus speaks throughout as if he assumes everyone is part of the family of God, and has status as God’s child.
It’s kind of a “We hold these truths to be self-evident” moment. “Let’s move forward from this point,” Jesus is saying to the crowd he recognized as God’s de facto children, “living in the light of this great truth.”
I believe this is critically important because it means that these words are not just for self-declared Christians, not just for people who meet some manufactured religious standard, they are for everyone. If you are reading these words then Jesus is talking to you.
It makes the silly debate over, “Is America a Christian Nation?” spurious. Our responsibility to be salt and light is not contingent on anything more, or less, than the simple fact that God expects it of us.
We here in the United States of America are uniquely privileged in terms of what we have to offer the world: in inspiration, in opportunity, in resources, in example, in leadership… So we must be salt and light.
Salt brings out the best flavor in everything it touches; we are called to be salt both for one another and for the world. Light offers freedom, and illumination, and clarity, and accountability, and hope. This is what is expected of us. This is what is possible. This is what freedom means.
This passage is, in a sense, a declaration of independence. Freedom from ways of being in the world that depend on darkness, oppression, and fear; freedom from practices that try to extinguish other people’s light, and individuality, and flavor; freedom from politics and governments and religious practices that are rooted in division and judgement and hate rather than the power of love – the power of salt and light.
So happy Independence Day! Jesus says this truth is self-evident: We all are God’s children. Given that fact, we are called to be salt and light. – DEREK