Salt and Light (and Coronavirus)March 12, 2020 Pastoral Word
Long lines at our local stores, a never ending news cycle of updates, and widespread fear have entered our world in the form of a viral infection called coronavirus. Educators, athletic organizations, and government officials are already canceling events and large gatherings of people to stop and minimize the spread of this virus. But the question remains, how should Christians respond? Beside the obvious of washing our hands and following the recommendations of health care professionals, what can we do to help?
I recently had the joy of preaching through a small part of the Sermon on the Mount where Christ lays out both the character and conduct of all those in the Kingdom. In Matthew 5:2-12, Jesus preaches the beatitudes, or sometimes like “the beautiful attitudes,” of Kingdom citizens. To be poor in spirit, meek, merciful, pure in heart, righteousness–these should mark all Christians. That is who we are. The beatitudes are our character. And following these descriptions, in verses 13-16, Jesus moves from our character to our conduct. To his hearers and us, he employs two metaphors to make his point: salt and light.
First, Jesus said in verse 13, “You are the salt of the earth...” We know salt as that white sand-like stuff we add to our food to give flavor, but in the ancient world it was more commonly used to preserve food and to keep it from spoiling. The point Jesus was making is that Christians, Kingdom citizens, are the preservative of the world–that is–we keep the world from rotting and decaying. We slow the process and help guard the world from quick and utter moral ruin. Today this reminder is very apt. As fears of sickness grow with the spread of coronavirus, we are called to be salt to the world. This is a call to respond with care, love, compassion, and grace that the world doesn’t understand. It is to show the world the character and conduct of Christ, ultimately to honor God, but also for the purpose of sharing the Greatest News with a world running scared. We can help slow the spread of fear and anxiety simply by being salt.
Secondly, Jesus said in verse 14, “You are the light of the world...” By definition, darkness is the absence of light, and this is part of the implication of what Jesus is saying. The world is dark. It’s spiritually dark. The Bible is full of references to this reality. Left to itself the world is not only decaying but it’s in complete darkness. That’s why all Christians must be light. They must shine as bright as they can, and as Jesus says, to never put their light “...under a basket, but on a stand” (v. 15). While the spread of coronavirus reminds us that we are in a sin stained world, a world full of sickness, and full of darkness, all Christians must respond with joyful, Christ-filled light. As you obey the government, honor the authorities God has placed, respond to needs in your community, share of the hope you have in Christ, and put on good works, you are being light to the world. Jesus said, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is heaven.” This is an unbelievable statement! It means that you have the opportunity and responsibility to shine because it can lead to “others” glorifying God. The watching world will see your character and conduct and glorify God.
What the world needs right now are Christians who are truly salt and light. When Jesus said you are the salt of the earth and you are the light of the world, he uses an emphatic form of “You.” What he is saying is that “You and you alone are salt…” and “You and you alone are light…” There’s no other preservative for this decaying world, and there’s no other light source for this dark world. You’re it. In the midst of panic and pandemic, you and you alone can give hope and squelch fear. My hope and prayer is that God would use His church to bring salt and light to this world through you today.