Salt is something that we take for granted in our day, but in the ancient world it was an important commodity. Scripture reports that salt was used in various contexts and as various symbols. One passage that has always troubled me is Matthew 5:13, where our Lord uses salt as a symbol.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
What has always confused me is the scientific paradox that is presented here. Salt is a very stable substance. In fact, in order for it to be chemically modified, it is usually diluted with water and electrified (impossible in the first century). How then can Salt become “Saltless” (literal translation of Mark 9:50)? None of us want to be a worthless, saltless Christian!
This passage still convicts me, but it is no longer because of fear. Why? True salt remains salty! The other examples in this passage show the absurdity of fearing saltless Christianity. #1 A hill-top city cannot be hidden. #2 A light (lamp) cannot be covered. It would extinguish, or burn through the covering. In the same way, salt cannot become saltless! So why does our Lord use this example?
The answer lies in the historical difference of salt. In the first century, salt came from natural sources, such as sea-salt and salt mines. Pure salt was gathered from the mines, but was always contaminated with other minerals. Today, various qualities of salt are used for different things (salting roads, or salting a filet mignon). It was the same in scripture. Salt only became Saltless in one of two ways:
#1 It was never true salt. Dishonest merchants could sell contaminated salt with a sample of pure salt on top. As the pure salt was used up, the contaminated salt would be exposed and become saltless. Have you ever met a church member who was salty on the surface, but their non-christian character was eventually exposed?
#2 It was contaminated by an outside influence. Salt is less effective when it has become contaminated. I once witnessed a 5 year old at Wendy’s licking the top of the salt shaker on each table. Needless to say, I found those salt-shakers less effective (and used individual salt-packets every time since). It is the same with the Christian life. We never become less Christian, we simply allow outside contaminants to ruin our effectiveness.
Here is the point: We don’t have to fear a change in our salty Christian nature, only contamination and fraud. Our challenge is to remain salty by avoiding contamination from this world.
One more salty fact to consider: First century farmers often added a little salt to the manure pile, speeding the composting process to make even the most fowl refuse into something profitable. Be encouraged, no matter how bad your surroundings are, you can remain pure and effective.
As Great Commission Christians, we need to allow our lost neighbors to “Pass the Salt” every time they walk by us.
Looking for some opportunities to be Salt and Light? Find opportunities on www.idlewildserves.org.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1:27)
It was the third time I had received a call on my cell phone from a number I did not recognize or have in my cell phone directory. That evening I received another call from the same number but this time it was on my home phone. Most times I let it roll to voicemail but this time I decided to pick up the phone. And I am glad I did because it was Mamadou (no danger to him, this is a very common name, it is like saying I received a call from John), a young Muslim English teacher I met on a mission trip to Mali two years before.
I was surprised by his call, but glad to hear his voice. He just wanted to say “Hi!” He was thinking of you and wanted to share what was going on in his life.
When I met Mamadou two years ago, we connected right away; the fact he spoke English was a plus! One night I shared the Gospel with him. He was receptive to the message and had many questions. After a long conversation I said to him, “You say you find this story (The Gospel) very credible and that it makes sense to you.” Tell me then, “Would you like to walk the Jesus way tonight?” He replied, “Yes it makes sense to me, but no, I cannot walk the Jesus way tonight!” I asked him, “Why not?” He replied, “Because if I walk the Jesus way, my parents, who are radical Muslims, will persecute me and ask me to leave the house; they will physically hurt me.”
Mamadou did not choose to walk the “Jesus Way” that night, even after a long explanation regarding the eternal consequences of his choice. But I continue to pray for him and remember him often. I recall a previous phone conversation I had with him a year ago. This day I called him. We spoke about many things, but I remember one of the things he wanted me to pray for was for him to find a wife. Being a 30 year old Muslim without a wife was not viewed favorably among his friends and family. I told him I would pray for him and ask God to send him a wife. I also told him he would have a chance to meet my wife when the next mission team arrived in January.
I vividly remember this phone conversation because it makes me smile when I think of it. When the mission team arrived one month later in Mali, Mamadou came to the compound one night and someone introduced him to Lourdes, my wife. He immediately Mamadou asked with a smile on his face, “Are you the wife Pastor Ray sent me?” I would have loved to have seen the expression on Lourdes’ and the teams’ faces that night! Mamadou had misunderstood thinking I was sending him a wife rather than my wife was going on the trip to Mali. We laugh every time we talk about that incident.
As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches I reflect on Mamadou and his struggles with finding a wife, getting a higher paying teaching position, not having a car to travel to work, and many of the same kinds of struggles we in America experience. I am reminded that not all Muslims are terrorist and not every Muslim hates Americans. I am reminded that God also made Muslims in His image. And we are to reflect back to them what the “Image of God” really looks like. What it looks like when we are reconciled with our Creator and have the hope of eternal life. We have the obligation, no, we have the privilege of showing them the way to “true life”.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
On 9/11, remember the 4.5 billion Muslims who live in the “1040″ window (visit http://www.joshuaproject.net/10-40-window.php for more info). If you don’t have a Muslim friend, remember Mamadou and pray for him. Pray that someday he will have the courage to “walk the Jesus way.” Oh, and that he may find a wife!
Make this your prayer verse on 9/11:
“I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:1)
Want to meet some friendly Muslims who are willing to listen to the stories of the Bible? Those who are interested in learning about your “Story?” Join us on one of our mission trips to Mali in 2012. Visit our 2012 Mission trip calendar on this blog or e-mail missions@Idlewild.org for more information.
Imagine for a few minutes that you are a new parent of a baby girl who is absolutely perfect in every way. As a new parent you praise God and promise to do everything in your power to guide her to make sure she becomes what God would have her to be. So begins years of making sure that every time the doors are open at church your family is there. Then one day you come home and as you walk in, you just know something is wrong. Sitting on the couch is your wife, sobbing over the phone call she has just received from your teenage daughter. The daughter’s story goes; that she doesn’t know how “it” happened but she has been busted or arrested for the possession of alcohol and/or drugs. Then she says, “By the way, Mom, I think I might be pregnant.”
Now that I have your attention, allow me to tell you how this story relates to our recent mission trip experience by you’re S.W.A.M (Student Worship Arts Ministry). The IBC Middle School division of S.W.A.M. partnered with a ministry in the community of Opelika, Alabama.
Opelika, Alabama is typical in a lot of ways to other small southern towns, we were told that High School Graduation rates have dropped to about 30% and that most families will not send their children to the public schools in this county. But thanks to God’s calling of Pastor Rick Hagans who founded the Harvest Ministries there is new found hope for this community. Their goal is to help with the many challenges present in this community
Among other things Harvest Ministries owns and operates the world’s largest known thrift store in the United States and possibly the world. The focus of the ministry is to help young adults with the challenges that your ‘imagined’ family is currently facing. They have two homes for females, and several homes for males. All with a history of chemical abuse, some with legal challenges such as probation for crimes of non violent and non sex related. Each resident is required to participate in daily devotions and Christ centered classes geared to their dependency. One of their homes young mothers are able to keep their child/children with them after their birth.
The S.W.A.M. Middle School Mission Trip started from IBC at 4 a.m. on July 23rd and returned for the home concert at IBC on July 27th. During that short time they did an amazing amount of labor for the Lord, starting with a concert at the thrift store for the customers, two concerts in local churches, a community concert and cookout in a local rodeo arena, not to mention days of labor in the thrift store, the homes, and their farm. At night when all was done the students rested, slept, ate, and fellowshipped at the Hosanna Women’s Home, sleeping on air mattresses and sharing the facility with approximately a dozen or so women and their children that called this sanctuary “their home.”
On Monday, it was time for the ladies of the Hosanna Home to share with our students their story. The first thing that was interesting is their gratitude to our students for how friendly they were. The ladies were fearful that a bunch of students would want nothing to do with a bunch of ‘druggies’ and their children. As the young ladies shared their story a common theme emerged. Most were from Godly Christian, church active, & solid homes. The ladies cautioned the students in the areas that they had messed up in such as parental relationships, spiritual growth, and Christian friends to name a few. When they were finished it was our student’s time to share, and you could tell by the response that there had been a significant impact in some of our student’s lives. All realized they could be looking at themselves in a few short years if they made the wrong decisions that are so easy to make..
Now back to your “imagined” problem. The experience the S.W.A.M. student’s had and the testimonies of the young ladies, all realized that the God of the Bible is the God of redemption. The ladies of the Hosanna Home proved that fact. Here were ladies that came into the home broken, battered, and bruised; left healed, some writing music, some attending college, the rest with jobs and a restored ‘chemical free’ God filled life.
By Ross O’Banion
For more information on future SWAM Mission Trips