Whenever I look at Jesus telling us that we are the salt of the earth, the light of the world I think of this anthem based on Psalm 34:8.
Jesus is telling that it is our work as his followers to bring out the complexity of the flavours of life. We tend to over use salt these days. It is cheap and easy to get. In Jesus' time it was a precious commodity. It would have been used sparingly to enhance the meal.
The trouble with salt is that if you overuse it, all other flavours are overwhelmed and all you taste is salt. I often order meals in restaurants without salt because I want to taste the food not the salt.
What has this to do with being the salt of the earth?
After centuries of being the religion of the establishment we often still think in terms of making everyone around us in Christians. We want to fill our churches, we would like our neighbours to think like us. Life would be so much easier. But that isn't what we are supposed to do. We are to be the Gospel and be ready to tell people about Jesus. But we aren't supposed to convert them. That, Paul says, is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our living and telling the story of our faith helps to bring out the flavour of the people around us.
Being the light of the world is very much the same thing. We shine the light of God into hidden places. We cry out for justice and peace. We illuminate what the world might be like if all followed the way of love. But if everyone is Light the same we we are Light, then we wouldn't be able to see anything.
Art needs a wide range of values both light and shadow. In our Western, white culture we unthinkingly associate light/white with goodness and shadow/darkness with evil. This is a tremendous injustice. God made both the night and the day. Our light will produce both light and shadow. It isn't our job to proclaim our notion of good and evil, but to proclaim God in Christ crucified. That is a hard thing since Christ crucified doesn't lend itself to creating empires and being a power in the word.
So I'm back to the beginning. We are to be salt and light so that people may taste and see how good God is.