My blog is called “Salt-Seasoned Faith” but what do I mean by that?
Some might jump to the well-known directive from Jesus for Christians to “Be the salt of the earth” (Matt 5:13) and “not lose your saltiness” (Luke 14:34 and Mark 9:50). Not a bad reference but in fact, for me, salt-seasoned faith is less about what Jesus said in the Gospels and more about what Paul said in Colossians:
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:5-6 ESV emphasis mine.)
If there’s one thing the North American church can do better, it’s relate to people outside the church. Historically, and especially during my life, we have done an awful job of believing and holding to Biblical truth while simultaneously being loving, winsome, hospitable and gracious witnesses to God’s gift of grace and forgiveness found in His son. In my own experience, I’ve found that churches that tend to excel at one of these things, also tend to fail at the other. I’m painting in broad strokes now, but in my own experience, churches that tend to excel in good doctrine are usually pretty inclusive and abrasive to outsiders while churches that are really great at making outsiders feel welcomed tend to be pretty horrible at theology and doctrine. Again, broad strokes, but if you’ve been around the “Church” block a couple of times, this likely isn’t news to you.
Here’s my question: “Why can’t we do both well?”
Why can’t we be good at theology AND good at loving people?
I love the image Paul uses. This idea of being only “seasoned” in salt. Not to much, not to little. When I read this text, I see the salt here as being the message we Christians bring in our interactions with people who are outside the church. It’s the Gospel, in a word. How we communicate the Gospel matters. It matters because the Gospel is offensive and it is easier to push someone away from it than draw them closer to it.
An over-salted meal is often unpalatable. When my wife and I were first married I decided to pan fry her steak for dinner, I over salted it with the wrong kind of salt and ruined the steaks. So bad was the taste in her mouth that I still take flak over it more than six years later!
Too much salt leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Too little salt, too little seasoning can do just as much damage. I won’t go back to a restaurant that serves bland food any more than my wife will let me pan-fry steaks. The same is true of our faith. Too much salt leaves a bad taste and not enough is bland and worthless.
So what are we to do? I love the Gospel I love Jesus, and I even love the church. I want desperately to see the North American church walk away from the way we have been historically been presenting the Gospel, as simply a way to clean up your life. The gospel and our shared faith within it is so much more than simple moralism.The gospel and our shared faith within it is so much more than simple moralism. Click To Tweet
Having a faith that is “Salt-seasoned” is recognizing that people who aren’t believers aren’t going to live like us, that they won’t have the same values as us and it’s about tolerating that, dare I say it’s about being ok with that. Sinners sin; that shouldn’t surprise those of us sinners who have been saved by grace.Sinners sin; that shouldn't surprise those of us sinners who have been saved by grace. Click To Tweet
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it as clearly as I can here: I don’t care how non-Christians behave until they become Christians, and neither should you.
Paul talks about walking in wisdom toward and among outsiders and making the best use of our time. The best use of our time isn’t nit-picking their behaviour to make them look more like the kind of sinner we are, it’s being gracious, loving, accepting even! Elsewhere Paul talks about outsiders being slaves to sin. Slaves don’t have a choice. Isn’t in inherently un-loving to expect a slave to act in a way he’s not permitted to act and then chastise him for not acting that way? Expecting someone who doesn’t worship Jesus to act a certain way because Jesus or even the Bible says so is like asking me to start following the tenets of Scientology. I won’t do it, because I don’t care.
Food for thought: Jesus hung out with sinners so much it effected his public image and perception. Modern, Western Christianity asks sinners to conform to our rules before they can hang out with us…I don’t know about you, but that’s way too much salt for my taste.