Salt, strictly speaking, remains salt. It doesn’t lose its saltiness like someone loses his hair or a tan fades when summer gives way to fall and then winter. Salt loses its kick when it’s adulterated.
Mixing salt with something else diminishes its ability to season and to preserve food. Adulterated salt performs like the inferior generic medications my doctor keeps warning me about. It looks like it should be lowering my blood pressure, but it doesn’t deliver.
Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.” (Matthew 5:13)
He expects his followers to be salty by spreading a Salty Gospel.
Jesus sends his disciples into the world to make disciples with the Gospel. And it’s a salty Gospel. It’s piquant, provocative. The Gospel of Jesus Christ makes ears perk, nostrils flare, and hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
It goes something like this.
God is for us even when we’re against him. His Son died on the Cross for us even while we were spitting in his eye.
This is extravagant love. It’s the love that can release us from the stupidities of our past, restore the relationships we’ve fractured, make us finally at home in our own skin, heal us from all suffering, and finally rescue us from death itself.
That saving love is free. Our struggle comes in accepting it and living our lives as people who are really loved in this way.
Yep, that’s salty!
Don’t adulterate it!
Sometimes the Salty Gospel gets adulterated with what Timothy Keller calls the moral performance narrative. It’s the God-owes-me-one game. I’ve followed the rules so God owes me a reward.
That’s not so salty. After all, how good is good enough to get the reward? Pretty Good? Gentleman’s B? Really Good? Hopefully not flawless! That taste I’m experiencing from this Adulterated Gospel is anxious bile, not salt.
The Salty Gospel of the Cross teaches me to drop the habit of constantly checking to see if I measure up. Jesus has measured up for me. The moral performance narrative never lets me stop.
Another Adulterated Gospel goes something like this. God made me this way. So he loves me just the way I am. No measurements required!
At first, this sounds sweet. I am what I am. God approves. I measure up. Any suggestion that I might not measure up derives only from my own lack of self-esteem or from narrow minds that cannot accept me for what I am.
And yet just as we start to chew on this Adulterated Gospel we get the nagging suspicion that maybe, just maybe, we could be better—better than we can make ourselves.
There are resentments we nurture, relationships we can’t fix, habits we can’t kick, words we can’t take back, regrets that won’t go away, and other people that God is supposed to love that irritate me to no end.
Is this really as good as it gets? This is what eternity will look like?
Nope. Better to stick with the Salty Gospel. Our lives are broken in ways that we cannot completely understand and that we certainly cannot repair. Jesus dies to make whole what remains broken in our hands.
And he does it because of who he is, not who we are.
That’s a Salty Gospel.