“Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” ~Mark 9:50 (NRSV).
There are many aspersions cast toward the typical Christian and their ‘saltiness’—or in another terms, their propensity toward hypocrisy (or not). Many of us Christians have come across, at some stage, with some people, as self-righteous and hypocritical, when Jesus’ idea around saltiness refers to the exact opposite.
The real essence of this verse, above, is in part B, which is best broken into two pieces:
“Have salt in yourselves”
Rather than judging—or coming across as judging others or other things—we are best judging ourselves, or as Jesus put it: “Have salt in yourselves.”
This is willingly allowing God to search and judge us. As the psalmist said:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”
~Psalm 139:23-24 (NRSV).
Having salt in ourselves is the pungent and irrefutable self-reflective humility of a Christian so foreign to judging that they’ll only be found judging themselves. Their intimate partnership with God is the overriding basis for such a committed discipleship. They might rather see others judge them unfairly than be implicated in anything getting close to judging others.
Having salt in ourselves is ensuring that the purifying sodium chloride reacts with the material of our spirits, refining us more and more into likeness of Christ Jesus, our Lord.
The effect of such a chemical reaction—as a metaphor for spiritual testing and growth—is we’ll naturally be at peace with others.
“be at peace with one another”
The first piece of Mark 9:50b is connected with the second piece.
It’s natural that as our judging behaviour is cast inward and not outward we’ll not be any variety of threat to other people. Others could not help but endear themselves to us if they could see us genuinely humble, preferring to be down on ourselves rather than down on others.
Many Christians might think that Jesus is referring to those in the fellowship, so far as being at peace with one another is concerned. Why would the Lord limit such a powerful command?
No, if “Have salt in yourselves” was to be applied unconditionally, so too is and be at peace with one another” to be. We were destined to promote peaceable relations with all humankind so far as love is concerned.
If we have lost our saltiness it’s because we have started to live the Christian life as pagans. In other words, we’ve lost the driving sense of love for a passion of doctrine (i.e. legalism). Or, we’ve temporarily forgotten the mandate for humility in the chase for spiritual pride.
Saltiness is not just a quotient for worldliness. It’s just as much about living the authentic Christian life, which is fundamentally governed by a personal relationship with the Saviour. Jesus saves us every day we cast ourselves, humbly, on him alone—in this we retain our saltiness.
Such peacefulness will be our blessing; we’ll not be easily offended or given to negative self-talk. Humility has the majesty of being as fair with others as we are with ourselves.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.