Salt is a cleansing agent; similarly, a ministry of the Church must cleanse the world through the prophetic and divine agencies provided by God—prayer, evangelization, contemplation, and charity. Remember the warning Christ gave to those who lose their saltiness: “It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot,” (5:13b). Such a harsh rebuke for those who refuse to incorporate themselves into the ministry of preservation within the Church, but it is important to remember the words of the author of Hebrews, who interprets this difficult teaching:
Therefore let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God, instruction about baptisms, laying on hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And we will do this, if God permits. For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt.
This exposition by the eloquent epistler can certainly cause anxiety especially to those who have failed to live perfect lives as they have “fallen away” from Christ. There are often relatively short periods Christians undergo during their salvific journey where they follow God in repentance and obedience in a backsliding manner. Such periods are a perquisite for being human, and these seasons may last either several days, weeks, years, or even decades. In the context of the passage, it is crucial to pay attention to Apostle John’s disclaimer, which states, “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:9 NRSV).
The author of Hebrews wrote, of course, to the Hebrew Christians, hence keeping this context in mind is important to be able to interpret the passage and correlate it with Jesus’s warning on the loss of one’s symbolic saltiness. In this warning, Jesus is referring to those who have been apostatized or who have intentionally estranged themselves from the body of Christ by rejecting the Church’s teachings. There is an important distinction to be made between spiritual inactivity and absolute apostasy. The former is inevitable due to our imperfect nature, while the latter is defined in Hebrews as those who reject the foundational teachings of the Christian faith: “repentance from dead works and faith toward God, instruction about baptisms, laying on hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” When one abandons these teachings, one loses one’s saltiness, and such apostasy is the very thing warned against by Christ when he says that those who fail to retain the ministry of salt are “thrown out and trampled underfoot.”
Therefore, we Christians must retain the ministry of preservation and purification set forth by the Lord, at the very least, due to the catastrophic damage on our souls when we abandon the ministry. If we think that the words of Christ apply only to the Twelve and not to us, then we should not believe that anything He said to His followers back then applies to us now. Therefore, the ministry of salt is a crucial aspect of the Christian faith, hence failing to uphold it will jeopardize the quality of our spiritual lives.
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How are you participating in the MINISTRY OF THE SALT?