This Week's Focus Passage

‘Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace one with another.’

Focus Passage: Mark 9:50

‘Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace one with another.’

Is it possible for believers to be ‘salty’ and continue in peace with one another? Is it not for the sake of retarding wickedness that we are to be light and salt? While there are many uses and benefits of salt, it does appear to us that such preservation is the primary and most common function. We may not relate to that very well in our age of vacuum packing and wonderful appliances for refrigeration and freezing, but in days not so far past, salt was essential as the only means available for the preservation and thus the safe consumption of foods. Sinclair Ferguson has offered the commonly received view of the idea of ‘having salt’ when he wrote in his valuable, albeit succinct, study guide to the book of Mark, that;

“In Jesus’ world, of course, salt was a basic commodity essential to life itself. It was said that ‘the world cannot survive without salt’ because of its value as a food preservative. What a tragedy, then, if salt were to lose its saltiness.”

How indeed does salt preserve food? Is it not that it retards the natural corruption, or putrifaction, of the food for which preservation is desired, and necessary if one is ever to derive the benefits of its life-giving nourishment?

Christ spoke on the occasion of His Sermon on the Mount, as it is called, not simply of the need of our being salt and light, but He strongly asserted that the believer IS salt and light. What an incredible responsibility! And here in our passage from Mark, Jesus has said that we are to have salt in ourselves. He has said that one of the effects, if not the primary effect, of this having salt is that we may be at peace with one another. Paul speaks to this matter, we believe, when exhorting his hearers and readers—ourselves—that we should Let [our] speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer each one. ‘Always’ is a very large word of application in this passage. Every time we open our mouths, let it be with grace. And not only so, but let it be seasoned with salt. This in order that we may know how we ought to answer each one; each person—each question—each interrogation—each perplexity, etc.

If we are faithful to our saltiness, to put it that way, is it not extremely likely that we will almost necessarily involve ourselves in great difficulty as it relates to being at peace one with another? Is being salty; is reproving sin; is being faithful to the truth, not going to often put us at odds one with another? We are told by our Lord that living according to the truth that we know will often bring us into conflict even with our families; with our fathers, mothers, siblings, children, wives. This is what we may expect, Jesus has said, this is what we must be prepared for; this is what we must anticipate from our relationships in and of the world. It is not enough that we want most strenuously to be at peace with all men; that we desire to be at peace with one another in our families; in our church relations; in our relations with other churches. It simply is not enough for us to have the desire. We must have salt in ourselves. We must be ready to give an answer to the one anothers when we are asked why we do a certain thing; why we do not do another thing. And our answers may often offend our brothers and sisters according to the flesh; our answers may often offend our brothers and sisters in Christ; in the church. While we continue to strive to be at peace with all men (mankind) it is naïve to expect that this desire will always be reciprocated and effectuated. In this world ye shall have tribulation is the faithful asseveration of our Lord Himself.

On the other hand, we should not despair at this, nor should we determine that we must always be reproving; that we should necessarily always be looking on the negative side of things. To have salt in ourselves while being at peace one with another seems clearly to mandate that our saltiness includes our speech being always with grace, and while it is indeed gracious to warn someone of the wrath to come, it is not always perceived by the recipient as motivated by grace. We must learn through prayer and study how we might be enabled to actually speak the truth in love; how we may, that is, to maintain peace while at the same time infusing salt into the communications in order to seek to preserve, if at all possible, the soul of the one with whom we are communicating. Christ, of course, is both a beautiful and a grand Exemplar of this loving behavior towards others.

Having salt in ourselves should involve loving our neighbor as ourselves. It should involve a sincere love for that person’s soul. Even when we are called to reprove wickedness in high places, it is most desirable that we cry unto the Lord for the enabling of His Holy Spirit that we might honestly speak the truth in love. We do not subscribe to the axiom ‘love the sinner, hate the sin,’ although there is reality in that expression. We prefer, ‘love the sinner in spite of his sin,’ remembering that we are sinners as well; remembering that it is only the grace of God that has made us to differ from them; remembering that we have nothing but that which we have received from the grace of God. We would do well to keep in mind also, and always, the words of the apostle to the Gentiles when he wrote those powerful and poignant words to the church at Corinth, in the sixth chapter of his first epistle, and when he interrogated them with these piercing words;

Or know ye not that the righteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with men, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. AND SUCH WERE SOME OF YOU: but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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