I’m a complete sucker for stories that include conversations between teenagers. This one appeared in a magazine years ago:
“I live in a small agricultural town where the heaviest industry is a tomato cannery. One day last fall I was walking past the high school when the steam started pouring out of the factory cooker stack several blocks away, and within seconds the spicy aroma of cooking catsup filled the air. Stretched out on the grass were two teen-age boys on their lunch hour. One of them rolled over, inhaled deeply, then turned to his companion and said, ‘Do you realize that we live in such a hick town that even the air pollution smells good?’”
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he informed his audience that following him would mean becoming a strong, sweet influence for good (not unlike the aroma of tomatoes stewing on a crisp, Fall day). Like salt invades and influences everything it touches, believers are to make a difference in the culture, for the sake of the love of God.
Now salt can influence, but it cannot re-make something. Meat or beans or potatoes won’t become ice cream if salt touches it. But, in the right proportions, salt can bring out the best of what is already inside the food. In that same way, Christian influence is all about coaxing-forth the image of God already stamped on the soul of those we meet.
Too often I think we see so-called Christianity (especially the political movement kind), angrily attempting to force our culture into the mold of what we perceive it ought to be, without a clue as to what God looks like on the inside of the other person. That’s not “salt-influence;” rather it’s Tabasco sauce by the gallon. You can force a teen to cut his hair, or remove her nose-ring, but you haven’t influenced anything for Christ; more often you’ve reinforced an opinion that Christians are rude and judgmental.
Lent, with its practices of self-emptying, and re-connecting with how to be genuine salt in our generation is designed to reawaken our saltiness for the good of Christ’s kingdom.
If, today, you can imagine yourself as a grain of salt:
You’re not much use simply lounging in the shaker with the other church-salts
You’re supposed to let the Master of the Feast decide where you’re needed
It isn’t easy being you – especially when you get dropped in hot water, spread over impersonal vegetables and meats who don’t like the same music you do, and can’t even speak the language.
Be salty anyway!