by Edmund Chan
A widely influential Singaporean pastor and author, in 1995 Edmund launched the Intentional Disciple-Making Church (IDMC) Conference. Started as a seminar with 320 participants, it has become a sold-out conference teaching disciple-making to 2,500 participants from 20 countries.
Living With a Sense of Distinctiveness
Losing the saltiness of salt is quite difficult. Chemically, salt (sodium chloride) is a very stable compound. You keep it for years in a jar and it is still salty. So how can salt lose its saltiness? That’s the clue to our understanding of this metaphor.
Salt loses its saltiness by contamination.
In Jesus’ day, people in Palestine took their salt mainly from two sources. The rich could have their salt from the Mediterranean Sea area but others have their salt from the Dead Sea. Salt taken from the Dead Sea can sometimes be contaminated by different minerals; especially gypsum, which looks like salt and can easily be mistaken for salt. It contaminates salt so that the salt not only loses its saltiness, it loses its usefulness as well. It’s contaminated. It is good for nothing.
The warning that Jesus gives us here is a very significant one for the Church. Beware of being contaminated. A compromised Church is a contaminated Church.
Oswald Chambers said, “We need more Christians who are distinctively Christian; he is the one who points out to the Church the very fact that it is so easy for us to become contaminated by the world.”
Don’t miss this. It is critically important. This then is the particular thing Jesus had in mind when He said “you are the salt of the earth.” The essential uniqueness of salt is what this metaphor is all about.
Not merely the usefulness of salt but primarily the uniqueness of salt.
It is so distinct that if you taste salt, there is nothing else to describe saltiness but salt. This is essentially tied with this idea of distinctiveness. He is talking about the distinctiveness of Christian disciples – of being so distinctively distinct – that there is nothing else like it!
Jesus is thus talking about the essential nature of the Church. If the church is not unique, it is useless (v.13). It is good for nothing. The idea of usefulness is only seen in the context of distinctiveness.
Get this discipleship principle: The usefulness of the Church of Jesus Christ is directly linked to the distinctiveness of the Church of Jesus Christ. That’s discipleship of “a certain kind.” Another way of stating this principle is this: The Church has a distinct calling of God because it has a distinct character in God.
That’s what discipleship is all about. Character. So what Jesus was saying is that the Church is designed by God for God; but if it is not distinct in God, it is good for nothing else!
The Church is radical in calling because the Church is radical in nature.
We are to be disciples of “a certain kind”! This is expressed in the preceding context in the Beatitudes. Blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the gentle, blessed are the poor in spirit – these are the qualities that makes for the saltiness of the Church!
That’s why the “you” is an emphatic pronoun. It means “you and you alone” (there is nothing else!) – “you are the salt of the earth.” There is no substitute for the Church. There is nothing like the Church. It is as unique as one of the most unique things on planet earth. Salt.