They have been making salt here in Cheshire since Roman times. Even now there is a natural salt spring, which is used for the local ‘brine baths’. The museum will tell you how they boiled up the extracted brine in the old salt houses to make some of the finest salt you can get. For Jesus, much of the salt came, of course, from the shores of the Dead Sea. Apparently it wasn’t always so pure though, as it would sometimes be mixed with other substances, such as gypsum. This altered the flavour, and made the food taste terrible. So, instead of improving it, it spoiled it.
There’s a story going round Facebook. The grandmother took a carrot, an egg, and some coffee grounds, and boiled them up for a while. The carrot softened, the egg hardened, but the coffee changed the water. We all face times of difficulty, and we can either weaken, become hardened, or else stay strong and change our environment.
And this is what Jesus was getting at, I believe, when he talked about us being salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). As we rub up against others, are we swayed by them, or are we the ones who influence others? And if we are the ones who are having the greatest impact, is that an improvement on our environment, or a detriment? Do I make life sweeter for being there? One of the best reports I had, one parents’ evening, was the teacher saying she felt the class had improved, and become more thoughtful towards each other since my child had joined it (mid term).
Salt improves food if it is clean; it is the impurities that spoil the broth. The same applies to our lives. We can only influence those around us for the better if our own lives are pure. That means becoming more like Jesus. Asking for forgiveness when we go wrong. Allowing the Holy Spirit to change us. Mixing with other people whose lives are more like Jesus, so they can influence us for the better. Seeking God’s power to build us up, to become confident enough to be the ones having the impact on others. To be good, clean salt in a world that desperately needs its flavour enhancing.