Prepare Our Hearts – February 24

A mid-week devotional from Central Presbyterian Church helping us to help prepare our hearts for the day ahead.  If you would like to receive these in your inbox, please let us know. Find the complete archive here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Mark 9:49-50

For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

I love salt. It is probably my favorite flavor. Give me a bag of salty popcorn over a piece of chocolate cake any day of the week—although if I don’t have to choose, I would gladly accept both. Many years ago, before we had children, Meagan and I would stop by the public library before embarking on our annual all-day trek to visit family up north in order to borrow a few books-on-CD. In the age before smartphones and podcasts existed—I am starting to feel really old—we were at the mercy of whatever selections happened to be available on the library’s rather small rack of audio books. We would look at the titles, read the back cover, and simply hope for the best. Some of the books turned out to be very entertaining, while others were more of a dud. Perhaps not so surprisingly, I discovered that Meagan and I do not exactly have identical tastes when it comes to what we find enjoyable to listen to on road trips.

One of my favorites, although I don’t think Meagan would put it on her “must read” list, was an book written and read by John Stossel, the television personality and consumer reporter best known for his mainly contrarian and libertarian views expressed on ABC’s 20/20. A good bit of Stossel’s book was spent on the topic of salt, really an investigation into why the USDA seemed to hate salt so much. After thoroughly reviewing the scientific data, speaking with leading experts at America’s finest medical institutions, and even interviewing the government’s top “Salt Czar,” Stossel discovered that the daily amount of recommended salt intake, as required on all food product packaging, was nothing more than a matter of a single man’s opinion, influenced by his mother’s insistence growing up that “too much salt is bad.” In fairness, salt in exorbitant amounts is unhealthy. Ingesting fistfuls of salt can cause your stomach to expand, your body to dehydrate, your kidneys to fail, and all sorts of other bad things. But how much is too much? Every medical doctor Stossel spoke with agreed that for the average person, there was no reason to be concerned, or even pay much attention to, the amount of salt they consumed.

“Salt is good.” Those are not just my words, nor the opinion of a minor celebrity, but the very words of Jesus. From ancient times, salt has not only been used as a flavor enhancer, but also a food preservative. Before the advent of refrigeration, the only safe way to keep meat good for any extended period of time was to pack it inside of large barrels or containers full of salt to stave off decay.

It is easy to read Jesus’ statement to His disciples, “Everyone will be salted with fire,” and come away a bit confused. What does He mean, exactly? Quite plainly, He appears to be saying, “Every one of you will become salt, i.e. salted, by facing the fire.” Similar to salt, fire has multiple uses, one of which is as a method of purification. If a precious metal such as silver or gold becomes dirty or damaged or improperly mixed with an inferior metal, it can be melted down with fire and recast into a newer, purer, form.

Jesus knew that the disciples were about to face the most challenging moments of their lives. God’s great plan of redemption for humanity included the betrayal, arrest, torture, and execution of Jesus. His disciples would watch in horror as their Teacher and Master suffered an undeserved fate at the hands of wicked men. They would be helpless as everything they had worked for, this new kingdom they believed they were building on this earth, was taken away from them in the blink of an eye. And it would be through this fiery trial, through the dark and difficult days that lie ahead, by which they would actually become the salt of the earth.

Although they had all been with Jesus for years, they still struggled to understand His teachings. They failed to follow His example. They were largely unsympathetic towards others. They failed to show compassion. They wrestled for power and control even among themselves. If we are honest, they were probably a lot like us. In His great mercy, God still uses the fiery trials and storms of life to reveal our insufficiency, remove our sinful impurity, and reassure us of His majesty.

As Jesus had told the disciples time and again, all of His followers are to play the part of salting the earth. They are tasked with bringing the unique flavors of the kingdom, like love, joy, and peace, and preserving the world against the advancement of the decay of sin. It was a huge task, one that they were not to take lightly, although it was also impossible to accomplish alone.

In order to retain their saltiness, and ensure they would not be cast aside as saltless salt, they must have salt in themselves. How does one have salt in oneself? This was not a command of perfection as much as it was a reminder of their absolute dependence upon God and the inward work of the Holy Spirit. The Lord not only salts us through experience, but He is the salt within. Our communion with God, spending time meditating on His word, through the power of His Spirit, preserves us in our struggles against sin and fills us with the delectable flavors and fragrant aromas of the most heavenly spiritual fruit.

As the salt within transforms us from the inside out, it will also produce the effect of helping us “be at peace with one another.” Here, Jesus is specifically speaking about our relationships with other believers. Because of our relationship with Jesus, each of us will, sooner or later, experience animosity with the world. Jesus said that because the world hated Him, it would hate us too. It was not a prediction as much as a guarantee. But He also said that the way everyone would know that we are His disciples is by our “love for one another.” Our relationships with other brothers and sisters in Christ are a visible reminder of the world that, through the death of Jesus, the power of reconciliation extends horizontally as well as vertically.

Now, even for people who like each other, achieving peace is difficult. Anyone who has ever been a part of a family will be the first to admit that those we love the most are also those we tend to hurt the most. But Scripture encourages us to lay aside our pride, confess our sins to each other, and pray for one another. Jesus reminds us that all those who have been forgiven much ought to also be quick to forgive much. For He has never called us to anything that He has not also empowered us to accomplish.

Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, You are the salt of the earth and the salt of our lives. We confess that too often we attempt to navigate life in our own power and strength instead of relying upon You. Empower us to be the people that You have called us to be, to fight back against the darkness and bring Your sweet flavor to our decaying and broken world. Move and work in our lives. We pray in the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.