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Salt of the earth: are we losing our flavour?

The challenges facing the Church today are very real, but the temptation to blend in with the world isn’t new. Whose voice are we listening to? By Jill Boniface


One of the 50 most endangered sayings in the English language is apparently the phrase, ‘to nail one’s colours to the mast’ .

It comes from our nautical heritage and the age of sail – a defiant act in battle to show that a ship would rather go down fighting under their sovereign’s flag than surrender to the enemy.

When I read this recently it got me thinking. 

Is it time for the Church to nail her colours to the mast? To show what we stand for and whom we will serve to the end, despite the battle raging against us? 

After all, we live in a world where these things are not always obvious and the temptation to blend in is greater than ever.

Not weird after all

No doubt many of us have wondered at times how we should live out our calling in the complicated 21st century. 

Is it still feasible to model ourselves on the early believers, or should we adapt to the world’s demand for a Church it can understand and tolerate? Is it ever acceptable for the Church to compromise? To move the goalposts and maybe save more souls?

How easy, how tempting, to be best buddies with the world! Surely that’s how we can win people for the Kingdom? 

If our lives and our churches fall short of the standard Jesus set, does it really matter? Won’t He understand our motives are well-intentioned?

When they see we’re not weird after all but still like a drink or two (or three) and snigger at their dodgy jokes – does it matter?

And what about these?

  • When we don’t mention sin, judgment or repentance but only that Jesus loves them, leaving them to live as they like 
  • When we don’t teach a life of prayer and discipleship, but just mumble about doing our best
  • When the Bible becomes a list of suggestions to adapt for our lives, instead of the living and active Word of God that transforms them

What then? 

We may not consciously teach these things, but often they take root and we don’t weed them out. We don’t want to upset anyone. We don’t want to be difficult or controversial.

So we brush the uncomfortable stuff under the carpet. ‘All that depends on how you interpret the Bible,’ we say knowledgeably. 

Is it just a coincidence that our version is usually the easiest one to live with?

Whose voice are you hearing?

The temptation to soften our beliefs or dilute the Scriptures is always dangerous, whatever the motive. How far will it go? Where will it end?

That’s why, whenever someone talks about interpreting the Bible, it reminds me of a voice – a smooth, sly, oh-so-reasonable voice that once asked innocently, ‘Did God really say…?’  (Gen 3:1)

Many of us have heard that voice. It’s not always so subtle, but the goal hasn’t changed – to drive a wedge between us and our Father. ‘Still going to trust Him now?’ it sneered when I lay on the ground with a broken wrist.

But thankfully most of us are more familiar with another voice. A still, small one. A gentle whisper.

Jesus told His disciples, ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot’ (Matt 5:13).

The challenges facing the Church today are very real, but the temptation to blend in with the world isn’t new. Jesus refused to water down or compromise His teaching to make it more acceptable. If He had, of course, we wouldn’t be here now.

The first believers risked everything to follow Him. They wouldn’t compromise either, and it cost them their lives. The same still happens to many of our brothers and sisters today. 

Will we have to look them in the eye one day and apologise? Or will we shrug, ‘That may have been right for you, but we interpreted it differently’?

Called to holiness

Yes, we need to be relevant. We need to be welcoming. Above all, we need to show love – because without it we’re no better than clanging cymbals.

But we’re called to follow the One who said, over and over, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’ (e.g. Lev 11:45, 19:2, 20:26). 

Holiness seems to be a bit underrated nowadays. We talk more about washing our hands than about inner purity and being set apart for the Lord. Yet that has to remain our main focus, because if we lose our ‘saltiness’ we will be good for nothing.

‘Do not love the world or anything in the world,’ John wrote. ‘If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them’ (1 John  2:15). The fact is, no matter how ‘relevant’ we are we’re called to be apart from the world, not a part of it.

No doubt all of us will have difficult choices to make about how we put this into practice. There are no easy answers.  Let’s just make sure whose voice we’re listening to.  

Image |Jason Tuinstra | Unsplash


Jill Boniface is a freelance editor and writer from East Sussex


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