There’s a song I heard in my youth that was popular on the Christian radio stations at the time. It went something like this:
“Salt makes people thirsty. People are thirsting for more of His word. Sisters and brothers pour salt on each other. You are the salt, the salt of the earth.”
Since the most ancient of times salt has been important to the cultures who had it. In fact, there was a time when salt was even used as currency. Where do you think the old saying came from “He’s worth his salt.”
Salt has been used to preserve, season, and cure illness. Even in our Orthodox cultures salt has been used to express hospitality and welcome. Several Orthodox traditions have salt as a gift when the bishop arrives at a parish. The bishop is met at the door of the church with bread and salt to mark the joyous occasion of his visit.
In our Gospel Lesson today, our Lord Jesus speaks very plainly about the way of life for a believer, a true lover of God. He says “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to Gehenna, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. For every one will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its saltness, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” See Mark 9:42-50; 10:1
It is interesting and instructive for me that the Lord commands us to “have salt in yourselves.”
His teaching concerning causing others to stumble and the sever attitude toward your own sin leads me to question a false view of sin that so dominates too many today, and that is that sin is the breaking of a rule.
But for the Orthodox sin is seen as a disease and repentance is the cure. It makes more sense of the passage when you look at sin as disease rather than mere rule keeping or breaking when you read that Jesus prescribes amputation to deal with the “sin” in body parts. Better to go into heaven as an amputee than to slip into eternity whole but sick!
Now, let’s be clear, the Lord is using the language of metaphor and story to get His message across, but He wants it to be completely unambiguous as to the seriousness of His teachings. We should be so averse to allowing sin to “infect” us that we are willing to “cut off” the ill members rather than risk losing the whole patient to the “illness” of sin.
And sin is an illness, dear ones. And it is fatal!
So is living without peace. The illness of sin always introduces conflict and turmoil and chaos. And there comes a time when the only cure for that sickness is to cut out the infection. And that can’t happen without a spiritual surgery of confession and repentance. That “salt” of confession and repentance cleanses the wounded area of my soul and, while it stings and it hurts to have this medicine applied, it is only the pain of getting better and not the eternal torment of perpetual illness.
So, today, as we get closer and closer to the Manger where God enters His world to perform the ultimate spiritual healing on the universe, let us treat our sin as the dangerous disease it is and not continue to make excuses or ignore the growing infection of illness that will eventually prove fatal for our spiritual selves. Let’s allow the “salt” of the truth to be rubbed into the wound of our repentance and watch as the grace of God makes us salty! And when that happens those around us will get “thirsty” for our wellness and they will “taste” and “see” how good the Lord is.
Today, have salt in yourself!