One of the most challenging teachings I've ever listened to took place in an even more challenging setting. A group of us were huddled together on a cold and rainy day in one of the barracks of the former concentration camp, Auschwitz, in Poland. The teacher, a Messianic Jew who was directing this tour for us through Poland and Israel, was asking us if we thought the Holocaust could have been prevented. A big question, for sure, and the answer we agreed upon was that it could only have been prevented if enough people had stood up to the Nazis all along the way.
The teacher began to describe how the Church, for the most part, had stood silently by or even participated with the Nazis as innocent people were rounded up and taken away from their towns and neighborhoods. Certainly there were protesters, some very heroic individuals who risked their lives, or lost them, because of their opposition to the regime. But how could the Church turn such a blind eye to what was happening? There are lots of possible answers, fear being the most obvious.
Our teacher began to explain the difference between sugar and salt. A surprising and confusing tangent it seemed! She said that although sugar tastes so good and is used to celebrate all kinds of special occasions, in reality it is a substance with less-than-positive after effects. Sugar is one of the main culprits in causing obesity, diabetes and heart disease. It is also credited with tooth decay. If placed in a wound, it draws bacteria to it and accelerates infection.
There are very few real benefits to sugar other than that it tastes good.
Salt, on the other hand, will sting if put in a wound. It hurts, but at the same time it has healing properties. Salt is used with food to bring out the flavor, as well as to preserve the food so that it lasts longer. The only negative effect salt has is if it is eaten in too great a quantity. But then, that can be said of just about anything.
Our group, huddled together in Auschwitz, got the point being made. The modern Church, in Europe as well as America, has bought into the lie that we are to be sugar in the world; we settle for being nice and cooperative and hope that those around us will notice and appreciate us and maybe join us. But Jesus never called us to be sugar, He called us to be salt. Salt and light. Of course we are to be kind and loving and patient as Jesus and Paul tell us. But we also want to affect the world by being who God calls us to be. In being salt, we might have to stand against corruption or evil. In being light, we might have to expose darkness. These things don't necessarily make us popular and they may even carry some risk. But these are the things that flavor the world with Jesus' presence and power. Being salt brings out the flavor of the goodness of God. Being salt heals the wounds of people around us. Being salt may even be responsible for saving lives.