What does it mean that embodying the Beatitudes makes people the salt of the earth?
Salt in the Ancient World
There are countless uses for salt in the ancient world. This made it a highly marketable commodity and currency. Salt played a central role in economics, religion, and food systems. Essentially, without salt, everyday life would descend into chaos. The same is true if salt was no longer effective. As one example, salt that does not preserve food has no value in a food system. This devalues it as a currency.
So how does the embodiment of the Beatitudes make people the salt of the earth? In my introduction to the Beatitudes I argued they had a lot to say about living in a spirit of love. In other words, the Beatitudes reveal the heart of the Kingdom of God. This spirit of love undermines a spirit of power that ultimately harms everyone.
In his book, Under Saturn’s Shadow: The Wounding and Healing of Men, Jungian psychologist James Hollis writes about the world men find themselves living in. Saturn’s shadow refers to the Greek god of agriculture and generativity who became a jealous tyrant. Living in Saturn’s shadow drives men to lives dictated by, “work, war, and worry.” Each of these, is a manifestation of fear. Fear sits at the heart of a spirit of power. So ultimately, men live in a world where they feel they have no choice but to seek power over themselves, each other, women, and children. This causes everyone to suffer. So what do the Beatitudes have to say to men living under Saturn’s shadow?
As one example, in the persecuted for righteousness episode, I defined what a merciful response to an abusive husband would look like. Now not all men living in Saturn’s shadow are physically abusive. After all, there are an array of ways to maintain power over others. Some do it with a sword, others do it with sweets. But since I already brought up an abusive husband, because dismissing abuse is such a problem in the church, and because, as someone who destroyed two marriages, I am intimately familiar with this journey, I will return to that example.
A merciful response begins by moving beyond basic contrition. Mercy means helping the man on a restorative journey. Part of this restorative process involves an invitation to mourn. This would include learning to mourn both the pain that drives his abusive behavior and the pain he caused his wife and children. Of course, even doing that kind of work would require him to discover a poverty of spirit where the need to be right, fades.
But in order for the church to engage in this kind of activity, the church needs meekness. There needs to be meek anger that responds to the injustice of the man’s abusiveness. Moreover, the church must hold a commitment to peacemaking the seek the well-being and wholeness of everyone.
It is not hard to see how a gathering of Christians who embody the Beatitudes could impact society as a whole. In this one example alone, the chaos fueling abuse that harms women and children ceases. Moreover, a man turns from an abuser to someone with deep empathy and an awareness of the suffering of others. It is easy to see how this same man would become someone committed to peacemaking.
Where Is The Salt?
That kind of ripple effect that undermines fear driven power with love, is what it means to be the salt of the earth. The embodiment of the Beatitudes brings order to chaos. It keeps society functioning in ways that are healthy for everyone.
But what happens when the salt loses its saltiness? What happens when Christians find themselves more interested in moralism or a culture war? They tell that same man he should be sorry for his abusive behavior, but they do not dare admonish him. After all, there is a culture war against the masculine. The church then counsels his wife to stay with him because God forgives. No one would dare empower her because the culture war battles feminism. So the abuse continues, and most likely, will pass on to the next generation. More fear and power flows into society. More chaos ensues. The salt is no longer salty. The church is no longer following Jesus. Their faith is worthless because it no longer does what it is there to do.
That is the essence of what Jesus means in Matthew 5:13 when he says, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.”
What Gets Cast Aside?
As I will close, it is important to emphasize one point. It is a faith that fails to embody the Beatitudes that is worthless. We need to cast aside the faith I grew up with and once embraced. That is not the same as saying we cast aside the people who currently embrace that faith or trample them under foot. Instead, they need a reconstructed abundance.
This post is part of an ongoing series. Link here for a list of every episode in this series.