Being the Salt
Today we will be looking at John Wesley’s fourth discourse on the Sermon on the Mount. The scripture Wesley is preaching from is Matthew 5:13-16. Today we will be looking at the first section of the discourse. If you want to read the full discourse it is found here: Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount IV
“First, I shall endeavour to show, that Christianity is essentially a social religion; and that to turn it into a solitary religion, is indeed to destroy it.
By Christianity I mean that method of worshipping God which is here revealed to man by Jesus Christ. When I say, This is essentially a social religion, I mean not only that it cannot subsist so well, but that it cannot subsist at all, without society, -- without living and conversing with other men.” (I.1)
John Wesley understands that for us to be the salt and the light that our faith, or religion, needs to be lived out among others. Wesley believes in personal prayer and scripture study, that alone is not the Christian faith. To be the salt and light of the Jesus, our Emmanuel, then we must interact with people outside our church. Wesley goes on to explain that when we look at characteristics of the faith Jesus is call us to from the beatitudes- meekness and peacemaker- we find that they only exist in relationship with others. To be Christian is to love Jesus and to interact with others, both our faith community and society, building relationships.
“Indeed were we wholly to separate ourselves from sinners, how could we possibly answer that character which our Lord gives us in these very words? "Ye" (Christians, ye that are lowly, serious and meek; ye that hunger after righteousness, that love God and man, that do good to all, and therefore suffer evil; ye) "are the salt of the earth:" It is your very nature to season whatever is round about you. It is the nature of the divine savour which is in you, to spread to whatsoever you touch; to diffuse itself, on every side, to all those among whom you are. This is the great reason why the providence of God has so mingled you together with other men, that whatever grace you have received of God may through you be communicated to others; that every holy temper, and word, and work of yours, may have an influence on lo them also. By this means a check will, in some measure, be given to the corruption which is in the world; and a small part, at least, saved from the general infection, and rendered holy and pure before God.” (I.7)
John Wesley offers rebuttal to the argument, “If we want to be holy, shouldn’t we be around holy people?” by reminding us that we are called to bring the good news of Jesus to the people. To have no connection to those outside of ourselves we would lose all ability to share good news and the love of Christ. Or in the words of Jesus, lose our flavor. Today, we are separated not only by Christian and non-Christian but also by denomination, social status, political affiliation and even sports fandoms. To be Christian is to have a social religion, a social faith that reaches across differences so that in some measure and in some small part you reveal the holy and loving God.
As we look at the scripture and Wesley’s thoughts for us today, I believe the questions for us are:
How am I interacting with the people around me?
Am I missing opportunities because I have closed off talking with others?
Are there sins or anger or poor decisions that I need to repent from?
How can my life be the light of Christ that in some small measure and in some small part the holiness and love of God can be known?