Saline Solution: the Salvation of Salt

morton saltIn nearly every cook’s pantry there can be found that familiar blue cardboard cylinder with the little girl and her umbrella pictured on the side – NaCl. But unlike modern sodium chloride, which will keep indefinitely, salt prepared in other more traditional ways will eventually lose its flavor. No doubt this is one reason why Jesus chose it as a metaphor for discipleship. (Interestingly, both salt and salvation are related etymologically, but not in the language that Jesus spoke. In Hebrew, salvation is translated as Yeshua.)

But salt, even that which is fresh and sharp, is useless if it never leaves the box. Speaking from a culinary perspective, unless salt is used to season or preserve foods it has no purpose. (At the time of Christ no one had ever thought of using salt to melt icy sidewalks, or thought of sidewalks at all, for that matter. It was used in other less obvious ways, such as in leather curing and in dye making. It also had some purifying properties but if that was Jesus’ thrust then flavor would not have entered the discussion.) There is no benefit to collecting salt for it’s own sake. Salt when combined with nothing other than more salt accomplishes nothing.

As followers of Jesus, we only fulfill our purpose when we spill out of our box, the organized and religious church, and mix with other people, especially those we may consider ‘unsavory’. And like salt, it sometimes is best to share the Word of God in small doses, one pinch at a time, lest we overwhelm the palate. Pouring it on heavily, without taking into consideration the other ingredients that have gone into making up a person, can have quite distasteful results. Too much salt will kill.

Unlike other seasonings, salt is not used to radically change a dish’s flavor, but to enhance it. Encounters with Christians should bring out the best in people, accentuating those qualities that are in common with Christ while gently encouraging people to taste the Living Water. In doing so we experience the blessing that comes from exposure to other human ‘spices’, some quite exotic, that God has seasoned the world with. In creative cooking salt is rarely used alone but is typically combined with other spices. Seasoning only with salt soon becomes tiresome, bitter and unhealthy.

Maybe we missed the boat when we forgot this aspect of our spiritual lives. That like Jesus, we need to be working, eating and playing with ‘different’ people, enjoying them and loving them for who they are, not seeing them as another project for salvation. Perhaps if we had the trust to leave our little boxes, allowing God to pour us out among the rest of the world, then the church honestly could be spelled with that big C.

Why would God want a pantry filled with nothing but…salt?

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4: 5-6


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  1. #1 by logiopath on June 10, 2008 - 8:17 pm

    I beg to differ–in the South salt is used as the main flavor with lard fritters. In fact, in the South salt is used to flavor just about everything.

  2. #2 by Christian on June 10, 2008 - 10:18 pm

    You prove my point sir. I rest my case.

    But seriously folks…”re right. Is it merely coincidental that the South is also into Bible thumping and fire and brimstone preaching?

  3. #3 by ric booth on June 11, 2008 - 8:37 am

    Pouring it on heavily, without taking into consideration the other ingredients that have gone into making up a person, can have quite distasteful results. Too much salt will kill.

    I really like the metaphor of the first sentence here. Get to know the person, Listen, be genuinely interested in having and enjoying a relationship with this person and season that life and relationship with a pinch of salt on a steady, ongoing basis.

    But the second sentence, “Too much salt will kill.” That analogy seems harsh. Assuming you are you saying the chance of any lasting relationship will die, I agree.

    The etymology of the words salt and salvation is interesting… I guess I knew the Hebrew connection.

  4. #4 by Christian on June 11, 2008 - 10:15 am

    Yeah, I was reaching for a connection between how soldiers would salt an enemy’s fields to prevent further crops from growing, in the same way that pouring on too much ‘religious’ salt will often kill any chance of meaningful dialog. You got it. But then you are sooo sharp. 😉

    So many different words have salt as their root. Salvation, salve, salary, salubrious. Mark Kurlansky wrote a pretty interesting book called “Salt”, tracing the history and the culture. Pretty cool stuff.

  5. #5 by b4dguy on June 11, 2008 - 11:12 am

    What’s the correlation to garlic salt? Or MSG for that matter…

    how’s it going, Chris? long time no shout…

  6. #6 by Christian on June 11, 2008 - 11:28 am

    I’m glad you brought that up Bad.

    Garlic Salt is a spiritual quality specific to Roman Catholicism, hence it’s prevalence in Italy, Spain, France and Latin America. Protestantism, on the whole, eschews Garlic Salt (with the exception of the burgeoning Korean church).

    Protestants, generally speaking, go pretty heavy on the salt (perhaps searching for that missing garlic quality?) and lately they have been accusing the Emerging Church of using salt substitute.

    I once posted on MSG
    though I think in your case it may refer to a Mighty Silly Guy. Good to hear from you.

  7. #7 by netprophet on June 11, 2008 - 10:52 pm

    “So many different words have salt as their root. Salvation, salve, salary, salubrious.”

    One more word, with deeper roots and probably the most important in relationship to Christianity and more specifically Christ Himself, is salvific.

    Did you also know that in the Rabbinic literature of the period salt was a metaphor for wisdom.

    Just some stuff for your next cocktail party. 🙂

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