Monday 31 January 2022

Seasoned with Grace

You are the salt of the earth.

—Matthew 5:13

Have you ever stopped to think about salt? It’s all over the streets and sidewalks of Toronto these wintry days, and today out of my home office window I can see it working in tandem with the bright sun to melt the snow and ice while the temperature remains sub-zero. This is some versatile stuff! It preserves and purifies; it softens hard water; it adds flavour. The next meal I prepare for my family will surely call for it, and I will hear about it if I use too much or too little.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that we are the salt of the earth. More than that, he tells us to stay salty. Don’t lose your saltiness! What did he mean? Many things, surely. That’s what good metaphors do, they help us say several things evocatively and simultaneously. They help us say things that can be said in no other way. In so doing, they open fresh paths for our thinking, being, and doing. Jesus’s salt metaphor is a perfect example.

Jesus was surely aware of the “covenants of salt” described in the book of Numbers and in the second book of Chronicles, used to describe God’s enduring covenant with the priests and kings of Israel. In those passages, the metaphor evokes the preservative quality of salt, vividly portraying the idea that God intended these covenants to be everlasting. Here the metaphor evokes the ideas of incorruptibility and permanence, and the call to remain faithful to God’s promises even in the face of the many countervailing realities that work against them, just as God remains faithful.

But might Jesus not also have had plain old zestiness in mind when he told us we are the salt of the earth? In addition to encouraging us to remain steadfast in our faith, was he not also reminding us that we are made to be tasty and interesting, that indeed we are being faithful when we are tasty and interesting? “Be savoury,” I hear Jesus saying, “and your life will be a gracious gift to others!”

The apostle Paul directly links saltiness and grace, when in his letter to the church in Colossae he tells the faithful: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6). Paul is here encouraging us to season all our conversations with grace. In all our interactions, Paul says, God calls us to preserve and sustain the other person in their being, and in so doing leave a good taste! Could you imagine how much more pleasing, constructive, and fruitful the many difficult and even polarizing conversations we are having today would become if we all entered them with this zesty spirit, with this desire to season our dialogue with grace? That’s some tasty food for thought right there.

It then gives me great pleasure to be able to tell you, the community who supports ICS, that—as I have long suspected—you are in fact the salt of the earth! Thanks for the seasoning, friends, and don’t forget to stay salty!

Ron Kuipers