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Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Start:Stop - Show us how our humanity can be made ‘salty’

Bible readings

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. Matthew 5. 13

Everyone will be salted with fire. 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. 49 & 50.


What does it mean to be a Christian at work or in society? For many of us this may be the question with which we struggle most within our faith. One of the key metaphors Jesus uses to help us think through this question is that of salt. Salt flavours, preserves and (in ancient cultures) purifies food. Jesus’ teaching about salt suggests that Christians should have a similar role in their society and communities. Gerard Kelly has unpacked this as meaning that “every gift you have been given … your intelligence and artistry; your creativity and character; your strength and stamina – these have been given to you so that you can work with God to unlock the full potential of his [world].” (G. Kelly, Humanifesto, Spring Harvest, 2001)

H. Richard Niebuhr proposed five different relationships that the Christian can have with our culture. These are Opposition; Agreement; Christ above culture; Tension; and Reformation. In reflecting on these options and thinking which comes closest to Jesus’ call for our lives to do the job of salt in our society, Steven H. VanderLeest, Jeffrey Nyhoff, and Nancy Zylstra apply these categories to something which is a standard part of our workplaces, the computer (Being Fluent and Faithful in a Digital World).

The first two options Niebuhr gives us are the extremes. Opposition means that the Christian opposes all cultural artefacts as "worldly." For information technology, this would mean that the Christian would see the computer as just one more instance of depravity, one more example of how sin infects everything we do. Agreement takes the other extreme, where Christians find their religion to be fundamentally compatible with the culture around them. Here, the computer is simply an extension of God's good creation, put here for us to develop and use as we wish.

The last three choices are somewhere between the extremes. The "Christ above culture" option was advocated by Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas would look at the computer and see it as a fine product of culture, but, as such, it could never approach the sublime beauty of Christ. The tension option, advocated by Martin Luther, places the Christian in a tension between Christ and culture. We are in the world but not of it and must be careful not to estrange ourselves from the world, but at the same time not to embrace it either. In short, we are citizens of two worlds that are often at odds with each other. Applied to information technology, the computer may be used, but with care not to indulge too deeply.

The final option is for a transformational, or re-formational approach. The Christian must recognize three truths: first, that culture is a manifestation of God's good creation, an outgrowth of human creativity and community; second, that sin deeply infects every part of the creation, including human culture; and third, that we can redeem culture in the name of Christ. This redemption is a transformation of culture by seeking, enhancing, and celebrating the original good we find in cultural artefacts while identifying the effects of sin (and working to reduce those effects). The computer is, therefore, an extension of God's good creation and thus has wondrous potential. However, it also exhibits the deep effects of sin. Christians are thus called to transform information technology in the name of Christ.

It is this transformational, or re-formational approach which seems to reflect most fully Christ’s teaching about salt. So let us reflect for a moment on the power of salt to preserve from rot, and to bring out the many flavours of food. As we do so, let us ask God to show us how our humanity can be made ‘salty,’ both in its role on the earth and in our workplaces (Humanifesto).


Transforming God, may we bring out the many flavours of our culture and workplaces by seeking, enhancing, and celebrating the original good there, while preserving from rot by identifying the effects of sin and working to reduce those effects. Enable us to use every gift we have been given; our intelligence and artistry, our creativity and character, our strength and stamina, to work with God to unlock the full potential of this world.

Show us how our humanity can be made ‘salty’ in our role on the earth and in our workplaces.

Gifting God, let us all take time to look deep within ourselves and discover the gifts you have blessed us with. May we take the time to direct our lives in a way that best uses our own unique combination of gifts. May our education help us discover where our strengths and interests lie. May our faith guide us in realizing our gifts. May we always be open to the direction of the Spirit and never forget the love you have for each of us. May we use our gifts for the benefit of others and for the common good.

Show us how our humanity can be made ‘salty’ in our role on the earth and in our workplaces.

Grant us a vision of your world as your love would have it: a world where the weak are protected, and none go hungry or poor; a world where the riches of creation are shared, and everyone can enjoy them; a world where different races and cultures live in harmony and mutual respect; a world where peace is built with justice, and justice is guided by love. Give us, through Jesus Christ, the inspiration and courage to build it.

Show us how our humanity can be made ‘salty’ in our role on the earth and in our workplaces.


Being granted a vision of our world as God’s love would have it, unlocking the full potential of this world, using every gift we have been given, using our gifts for the common good. May all those blessings of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.


Mark Heard - Treasure Of The Broken Land.

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