“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father."
Followers of Jesus are called to be "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world". What did Jesus mean when he used these two metaphors? What did he hope that his listeners would take away?
We can spend time analyzing the uses of salt and light, not only in the ancient world, but also in our world in hopes of better understanding what Jesus said and how they can translate over to a Christian's life. To be honest I think this text is pretty straight forward, and while doing some analytical work would be profitable, it isn't necessary. You see in the end both salt and light are agents of change and influencers of their surroundings.
In other words, Jesus wants his disciples to be people of influence in this world. We are to help people discover God's truth for their lives. So how do we go about doing that? I think in the United States we have tended to try to influence the world, to halt the moral decay, and to shine a light in the darkness by taking the "right" moral stands and by proclaiming the "truth".
If we stopped for a moment and reflected on how that methodology has worked the last 30 years we will notice that the Church has less influence now in our country then it ever has before. We will notice that on the important issue of abortion, with all our talk about the preciousness of life, there are more abortions happening all the time. The really sad reality is that many of these women come from a Christian background.
There is also the issue of marriage. The Church has opposed gay marriage, and rightly so, and we have talked about the sanctity of marriage in the process. Not only do we have more and more states making gay marriage legal, but we also have to contend with a high number of divorces. One of the scandals of the evangelical church is that that Evangelicals lead the way in the numbers of divorce. We can take the right stands and proclaim the right truth, but we lose creditability when it isn't lived out in our lives.
What this world really needs are not people who go on and on about morality or talk endlessly about sin and hell, but people who live in a radically different way. The world needs to see that there is a better way to live life. I like what the apostle Peter wrote; But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9; NLT, emphasis added). We have been chosen and set apart for the purpose of showing the world the love and forgiveness of God. The transforming power of God's grace should be seen in the way we live our lives.
The bottom line is this: In order to be salt and light we need to stand apart form the world. We need to be different. Too often we are compromising with world in the choices we make about life, and then we condemn them for living as the unredeemed people they are. The problem is not them, but it is us. If we are going to influence this world for Jesus then we need to change the way we live. Only then can we truly become "salt of the earth" and "light of the world".