Writings by Cole Huffman

A Pinch or a Pound of Salt

I’m thinking of salt. In Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, Chan quotes Luke 14:34-35, where Jesus said, “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.” Here’s Chan’s commentary:

“Jesus…is addressing those who aren’t willing to give everything, who won’t follow Him all the way. He is saying that lukewarm, halfhearted following is useless, that it sickens our souls. He is saying that this kind of salt is not even fit ‘for the manure pile.’ Wow. How would you like to hear the Son of God say, ‘You would ruin manure’?” (p. 81).

Marvin Olasky wrote a salty column a few years back in World magazine. Olasky’s piece is called “Prodigal sons: Part of the evangelical problem is knowing which brother we are.” Utilizing Jesus’ best-known story in Luke 15, Olasky compares the differing approaches of “younger brothers” and “elder brothers” to education, journalism, and various social issues:

“Part of the evangelical political problem in contemporary America is that much of the press and public see us as elder brothers. Sometimes we are that way in reaction to younger brothers. Sometimes younger brothers go their way in reaction to us…. Elder brothers tend to forget that truth without love is like sodium without chloride: poison, not salt” (p. 88).

Chan uses Jesus’ words in Luke 14 to warn us away from a kind of halfheartedness toward Jesus that is ultimately a failure of love. Olasky uses Jesus’ story in Luke 15 to warn us away from a kind of pureheartedness toward people that is also a failure of love.

I think a lot of us believe we are more committed to Jesus than we actually are. We have the nicest saltshakers. But we get concerned for shaking out “too much.” We want to live neat, perfectly seasoned lives that we maintain tight control over. The aim is to not get “too radical” or take Jesus “too literally.” After all, we reason, too much salt on a dish makes the food inedible. 

And yet, in reading the Gospels, I can’t find where Jesus is ever concerned with His followers being “too salty.” This is our concern, not Jesus’, and it stems from fear of risk and the desire to blend into our surroundings, not stand out. “You would ruin manure!”  

I think a lot of us believe it is okay to be less committed to people in the interests of personal holiness. “The culture,” we say, is a manure pile of vices anyway. Many evangelicals are mad at the way things are going in our country and feel justified to curse the ever-encroaching darkness. I’m told it is moral cowardice not to do so. But the purehearted elder brother in the Lord’s story was a stand-in for those whose cultural strategy became provincial indifference and contempt for those who didn’t “get it.” Jesus was by way of the elder brother confronting those in God’s house who didn’t have God’s heart. Poison, not salt.

This halfheartedness and pureheartedness are both failures of love: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.... You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Jesus in Matt. 22:37, 39). These words need to sink into us like salt on tenderized meat because behind all of our “evangelical problems,” as Olasky phrases it, is bland, tepid love for God and neighbor.

Chan is on to something: We need to hear more people saying to us, You’re crazy! Why would you give that much of your income away in this economy? Don’t you have enough family responsibilities without becoming a foster parent? Why would you befriend that prisoner or addict? How can you forgive her for what she did to you? The answer is love—Jesus’ love for me and mine for Him. It will always seem crazy to many, even those who think they know it. 

I usually feel most soups I taste need a pinch more salt because I like saltiness. I think our soupy society needs pounds more gospel crazies because I like seeing how people in love with Jesus inevitably change the flavor of things. Yes, people both inside and outside the church will shake their heads at us. But they’ll also think. And maybe they’ll eventually bow their heads wholeheartedly to the One who’s “love is better than life” (Ps. 63:3). Taste and see that the Lord is good, and pass the salt!
Posted by Cole Huffman at 3:17 PM
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