Salt and Light – A response to the prevailing culture of hate by Dionne Gravesande

Why is there so much hate in the world? The question arises again today, as it does every time there is another stabbing, another shooting or another vile attack to wound and disable. And every time these things happen here or anywhere in the world, we ask: How can people do this to other people simply for who they are, what they wear, where they live or what they believe?

As a mother I ask the question what kind of hateful rhetoric fuels such thinking, but hatred and evil are nothing new in our world. They have been around since the beginning of mankind, with acts of so much hatred and so much evil through history that we don’t like to even think about many of them. For all of us who are alive today, we want to believe that things have changed, that mankind today is different, and that all hatred and evil can be exorcised out of the world – somehow – through laws, regulations and decrees.

Of course, we can and must do things to prevent those filled with this kind of hatred for others, from being able to carry out their evil acts. Some hearts and souls of people cannot be changed, however – that job is for a higher power – but still we have an important part to play to confront and change a culture of hate to a culture of love, respect and dignity. We can, each in our own way, take steps every day against hate through billions of acts of love and hope around the world. Both personal and corporate acts can counteract and make a difference against the hated norms that exist.  

So how does a Christian specifically engage with culture, specifically if such culture incubates Jesus shared with us a few pointers through the paradigms of salt and light together. At our best we are salt in the earth and we are light to the world. This means that we engage in every culture to influence people to live out the holistic values demonstrated by Jesus. He shared with us a few different ways that, as a Christian community, we can respond to prevailing cultures around, using the themes of salt and light. 

1. Preserving Influence

“You are the salt of the earth…” (Matthew 5:13)

The first way is to be a preserving influence. Jesus was saying, in effect, that humanity – without core values of love, dignity, value and worth – will not survive. We should not tire of speaking or acting out these values.

2. Positive Influence

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasonedwith salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).

We use ‘taste’ to speak of a distinct flavour and intellectual quality. The idea here is that if we lose that positive influence, then we can become not just tasteless in the sense that we can’t sense the flavour. We should not tire of demonstrating the way we want to be treated by treating others with grace and respect.

3. Sacrificial Influence

“For everyone will be salted with fire.Salt is good, but if the salt should lose its flavour, how can you season it? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with one another” 

(Mark 9:49–50).

This lesson is in Matthew, Luke and Mark. Yet, Mark adds this detail: Salt is an important ingredient used when making a sacrifice, but Jesus added a warning: “If the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned?” We cannot or should not become diluted by unjust principles nor practices. We must keep advocating for justice and peace.

4. Open Influence

“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). 

The fourth way to influence the culture is being an open influence. A light is meant to be seen. Here Jesus was not talking about massive lights, but about little lamps to light the world. Even a tiny flicker of light can dispel the darkness of hate, so we must find new ways of stoking each other’s flames.

5. Guiding Influence

“No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house.” (Matthew 5:15)

The fifth way that we can be an influence is by being a guiding influence. When Jesus said that we are light, He was speaking of the influence of our Christian walk of witness. Together we bear witness, and empathise and support each other when the load feels insurmountable. For those who are lost, wounded and filled with hate, they also need it to find their way in dark places, and any guiding light should be shared with all who need it. 

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