“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 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 underfoot. You are the light of the world.”
During the Second World War the Director of Religious Broadcasting for the BBC thought that C. S. Lewis had something vital to say to a nation at war. The BBC then invited Lewis to give a series of radio talks about the Christian faith. Lewis’ radio talks were transcribed and made into the book, Mere Christianity. In one of the broadcasts Lewis used the imagery of war to illustrate being a follower of Jesus:
Enemy occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”
Ever since I read Lewis’ description of Christians as saboteurs I have been taken with the image of throwing sand in the gears, gumming up the works, or putting a monkey wrench into the forces of Darkness. The etymology of sabotage helps get a mental picture of the campaign in which we are engaged for this world’s rightful King. Sabotage derives from the French sabot which is a wooden shoe or clog. French workers on strike were known to take off their sabot and throw them into the machinery, committing sabotage by clogging up the works and disrupting the factories.
In today’s Scripture text it strikes me that Jesus is calling for acts of sabotage by living as “salt of the earth”. In Jesus’ day people used salt as a preservative for meat. Without the salt, meat would spoil and become rotten. Without the preservative of Jesus’ followers acting as salt the world system rots into tyranny, injustice, brutality and greed.
Jesus calls any who would follow Him to be secret agents of sabotage and subversion, that is, “salt”. He wants us to throw sand in the gears of a culture that increasingly devalues life and justice. He wants us to bless those who curse us, show mercy to the undeserving, resist giving way to despair, and quietly help the needy. Sabotage is undercover work that is stealth, small, but powerful. Each random act of sabotage undermines the Dark forces. Saboteurs never want to get caught in what they are doing or take out ads to let others know. It is enough for them to know they are preparing people to be ready for the day when the rightful King returns to rule over all.
William Penn was a committed Jesus subversive of the Quaker persuasion. As founder of the State of Pennsylvania he set up a government he hoped to be based on Jesus’ subversive teachings of righteousness. Writing in the “Frame of Government of Pennsylvania” (1682) Penn described how good government really works:
Governments, like clocks, go from the motion men give them, and as governments are made and moved by men, so by them they are ruined too. Wherefore governments rather depend upon men than men upon governments. Let men be good, and the government cannot be bad; if it be ill, they will cure it. But if men be bad, let the government be never so good they will endeavour to warp and spoil it to their turn.
In the midst of a brutish culture war engulfing our nation we must become saboteurs. Let us each day subversively throw yet another shoe of quiet grace and love into the machinery of a world system opposed to God and His goodness.
Grace and peace,
photo by max_wei
P.S. Our Lenten daily devotion book, “BLESSED: Daily Retreats with Jesus for the Season of Lent 2013”, can be helpful in learning more about daily subverting the kingdom of Darkness. Please let us know how many copies of the devotion book you would like by using this form. Also look for “BLESSED” to be posted daily on our website beginning February 13.