This is the passage where Jesus encourages his followers to be “salt” and “light.”
Could it be that Jesus chose two very different elements to describe his followers for a reason?
Not long ago I had the privilege of attending a seminar led by Barry Johnson Ph.D. where he described his theory of Polarities. He states that there is a “Law of Polarities” as fundamental as the “Law of Gravity.” His theory suggests that opposing positions may never be resolved by one being found completely “correct” and that this tension can be desirable if properly understood.
One polarity describes the operational dynamics of a hospital. On one side doctors seek to treat illness or injuries regardless of a patients’ ability to pay. On the other side administrators seek a positive economic outcome to keep the hospital functioning. Barry labels this tension between the “focus on treatment” versus the “focus on profitability” a polarity.
In any polarity both sides feel passionate about the need for their position to be prioritized over the other. They recognize the weaknesses in the opposing viewpoints. Dr. Johnson points out that this is the power of his model; to seek constructive criticism not from within your world view but from the opposing world view. Recognizing weaknesses and taking corrective action leads to a stronger overall model with more positive outcomes. Whereas, listening to those who see everything the way you do is inherently self limiting.
When Jesus describes the attributes of his followers (the church) as salt and light, he is describing two differing behaviors. One gives flavor and the other provides vision.
Jesus says that salt which has “lost its saltiness” is worthless and should be thrown out like sand. Its ability to provide flavor and passion in life must be celebrated and shared in order to be maintained. This is the church which celebrates its worship service but rejects the life outside the church which it should be enhancing.
Putting one’s light “under a bushel” is the church that only serves its own needs. To the people with this unhealthy model, focusing outward is only wasting resources on outsiders. Too many churches today are in a dying spiral as fewer “outsiders” are drawn to their light as they seal off the cracks to keep their light for only themselves.
The church today would do well to reflect on the fact that the Jesus of the Gospels was rejected by the institutions of organized religion and embraced by those “outsiders” who were seeking a “passionate vision” of creation.