Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

June 25, 2004

Won't You Be My Salty Blog

[This post is the 4th in a series. Parts 1 thru 3 are: Salt, More Salt, Please, and If the Salt Should Lose Its Savor. Go ahead, pour it on!]

I've been blogging for three days about salt, and I'm not through yet! As Arlo Guthrie used to say, "I'm not proud . . . or tired!"

If you've been following along, you've noticed perhaps the recurrance of this phrase: "to share bread and salt together." It's symbolic of unity, of a kind of sharing that's goes far deeper than food, like the more common variant, "to break bread together."

I mentioned Anwar Sadat meeting Menachem Begin as the Israeli prime minister set foot on Egyptian soil, and offering him bread and salt. This was a vow of protection. In a relationship that had long been marked by extreme mistrust, Sadat was saying, "I will not, I cannot, betray you now. For we have shared bread and salt together."

There's another English phrase, not very common, but you may run across it from time to time, that uses salt in this same symbolic way. Have you ever heard it said that someone was "below (or above) the salt."

This is interesting. In medieval times, it was typical for commoners or servants to sit at the same table with the "high-born," but the two groups were differentiated according to where they sat. The salt-cellar was place at the middle of the table, and the guests of higher rank sat "above the salt," while those of lower sat "below the salt." In time these phrases became euphemisms for their associated social groups. Thus, to say someone was "below the salt" was to cast aspersions on his or her social status. It's the kind of phrase you might expect on the lips of someone from an episode of Jeeves and Wooster.

But what does all this have to do with Paul's injunction, "Let your words be seasoned with salt." Well, one way we might think about it is this: Paul is warning against Christian elitism. We've already seen how the salt imagery connects up with grace. The sharing of salt is an act of graciousness. That is to say, Jesus erased the salt-line!

Think of Christ's parable of the wedding banquet. Or think of Jesus saying, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

So, yes, let your words and all your interactions with others, even with those outside the faith, be marked by grace. Let there be no snobbery, no self-righteousness, no looking down at the miserable sinners, as if you were not one yourself, and as if you were not after all saved by grace alone. Those others, the addicted, the prostitutes, the homosexuals, they too will be saved, if they are to be saved, by grace alone. Even perhaps by God's grace working through you.

Now may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. (2 Cor. 13:14)


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