“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
Now Jesus has to go and be all specific...with this teaching. Why couldn't Jesus have gone into detail and elaborate on the salty and light part? That was so much more positive...and so much less challenging. The truth is, we are angry a lot. Right now, there are people who are angry on both sides about a border wall. Some mad as hell that it would even be built...some just as passionately ticked that construction is being delayed. Others right now are angry at the weather or traffic or a family member or that their team lost the Super Bowl.
We don't often acknowledge that the twin of anger is grief. We are deeply saddened that pain persists and insists on taking center stage. Years ago Granger Westberg wrote a small book called, "Good grief," in which he deals with the thousand paper cuts in our hearts every day. The thing your friend or co-worker said. The fact that you are frustrated about being late, even though you left early. Your lingering cold you can't get over. The ticket you get for speeding when you were just trying to keep up with the flow of traffic. Your broken relationship with someone. And on and on. We don't grief well as a society. We push it down, stuff it deep into our souls, until it comes out less as anger and more like rage. We stifle and suppress. We put on a happy face. We just don't talk about that.
Because that was what we were taught and told. Our national motto could be, "Suck it up, buttercup." Play through the pain. Sweat is weakness crying. Or we could admit that life is harsh and hard with so much stumbling and bumbling our way through. That what really ties and tethers us together is our shared suffering, not that we ever want to admit it.
But Jesus does.
Maybe deeper than this...is that how we are salt and light is not just be putting on a brave face...but by being vulnerable in a world that doesn't know what to do with this. Two thousand years after Jesus faced death on a cross - the most humiliating and harshest way to breathe your last breath - we still want to boast how many members or how big our budget is in the church. I am not sure that is the life abundant Jesus was describing and defining. To be salt and light as a way of seeking reconciliation, not revenge. To be salt and light as a way of peace through processing pain rather than just passing it along like Halloween candy on October 31st. To be salt and light in seeking an alternative way...that was what Jesus was up to when he said earlier in the sermon, "Beloved are...the persecuted, peacemakers, meek, mourning, and merciful." If you want to know how to live this way, Jesus says, "Be light and salt." If you want to know what that might mean, don't go giving money as some way to buy God's grace (as if that was possible). But how we treat each other is what really counts.
Jesus had to specific on this one.
But it might be exactly where we need to embrace and prayerfully embody such truth in such a time as this.