Staff & Sling

Joseph E. Hébert, Ph.D.

98119 N 3745 Rd
Okemah, OK  74859
918 623 3078


To many the word "revival" brings to mind the old tent meetings. To others it brings to mind special week-long events at their church, usually involving a special evangelist speaker preaching a sermon each night. But whichever event comes to mind when you think of a revival, you probably think of it as an evangelical outreach to the lost and unsaved. In that regard, most people think of reviving the community when they think of "revival." And for good reason. If there was ever a community, a society, a city, a state or nation in need of revival, it is ours.

Unfortunately, almost no one ever thinks of reviving the church, or their own local congregation of the church, when they think of the word "revival." And even fewer think of reviving themselves, which is to say rededicating their own lives to God and His work on earth. But I submit that if this doesn't happen first, if there is no revival in the church, then there can be no revival in the community, and without revival in individual members there can be no revival in the church.

Christ said, "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men," (Matthew 5: 13).

What is salt? It's far too common, such that we take it for granted without a second thought. And in so doing we miss a mound of insight to Jesus' words. So I want to begin by sharing a few thoughts about salt and its nature.

First, it is the only rock which we eat directly from nature. Oh, to be sure a healthy diet includes many minerals, but none other is eaten directly in rock form. Salt is also the first spice. So crucial to our survival is salt that it is one of only four tastes that our tongue can discern (sweet, salty, sour and bitter). Long before the quest for other spices led to the discovery and colonization of the New World by Europeans, salt was a fundamental and intrinsic part of everyday life. The word "salary" has its origin in the word "salt." Indeed, this is where the phrase, "worth one's salt" originates. Soldiers and laborers were once paid in daily rations of salt.

Why was salt so important? Unlike the other spices, salt actually preserves food. In the days before refrigeration spices in general were fundamentally important to survival. They were about prolonging one's food supply. If a slab of meat was unpalatable after a number of days, spices could make it palatable for a few extra days. This survival imperative, not mankind's unquenchable curiosity and indomitable spirit of exploration and discovery, was the driving force behind the worldwide expansion of occidental civilization. We needed trade routes to the spices of the east, trade routes that avoided the Muslim pirates of the Barbary coast and other hazards surrounding the African continent (e.g. the Cape of Good Hope). If it were otherwise, if it were just innate human nature driving such exploration, then there surely would have been a worldwide expansion of oriental civilization years earlier.

But long before Columbus, salt was used as currency -- not because it just made food palatable for a few more days but because it actually preserved food for extended periods of time. In fact, salt can preserve food even longer than refrigeration. Salt can actually cure foods, preserving them indefinitely. So try to imagine living in a world where there was no such thing as an ice box, much less refrigeration, and meat bought at the local market was packaged on a stick or a rope, not in sterile cellophane. Now try to imagine how important salt would be to you.

But there's more to understand about salt before we go further. Chemically speaking salt is sodium chloride, (Na+Cl-). It consists of a positive sodium ion bound to a negative chlorine ion. Both of these are extremely reactive ions anxious to bond to anything they come in contact with. For this reason, natural sea salts can taste markedly different depending on where they were harvested. Different minerals and such dissolved in sea water will be absorbed into the crystalline matrix of the salt, influencing its flavor. This tendency to absorb things is how salt preserves food, but it is also how it loses its savor. A given crystal of salt has a certain and fixed number of sodium ions and a similar number of chlorine ions. Once they've all "picked up" as many contaminates as they can, the salt has been completely reacted and has lost its savor.

Now, with a better awareness of both the nature and importance of salt, consider Jesus' words anew. When He said that we were the salt of the earth, He wasn't saying we make the world taste better, more palatable if you will, but that we actually preserve the world around us.

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

Matthew 13: 24 - 30

So yes, as long as we are here we preserve the world by staving off the judgment of God. But as the salt of the earth we are to do so much more. As salt cures meat preserving it indefinitely, even longer than modern refrigeration, so too are we the cure, the permanent fixative, for the ills of those around us. We are the body of Christ.

But, like salt, if we are not kept separated from the polluting influneces of the world, which is to say if we are not kept holy (the word "holy" literally means separate), then we can and will become completely reacted. We can and will lose our savor. And then what good are we?

Well according to Christ, at that point were only good for being trodden underfoot. This should still be meaningful to us today. Most salt mined and harvested today is used, not in our food supply, but on our streets and roads protecting against the treacheries of ice. And in Jesus' day, salt that had become so contaminated with other materials was similarly cast down to provide traction and deicing on the roads and walkways. So if as Christians we have lost our savor, if we have not kept ourselves holy, we might help prevent those around us from slipping and falling, down a slippery slope if you will, but we can no longer be the influence of change that can cure and preserve the lost around us.

In the very next sentence Jesus uttered, after telling us that we were the salt of the earth, He said;

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5: 14 - 16

If we keep ourselves holy, which does not mean if we behave "holier than thou," but if we live our lives in constant submission to God's will for us, then He has promised us that we will walk in good works that He has ordained (Ephesians 2: 10). These are not good works that are of our own deliberation. If they were they would glorify us instead of God. No, self-deliberate good works are the stuff of being "holier than thou" instead of purely holy. Conversely, keeping ourselves holy, which is to say submitted to God's will, not only prevents us from losing our savor as it were, but results in our walking in those divinely ordained good works that glorify Him and help to preserve those who see them.

So, it is good that we should desire revival for our community. But before that can happen we need revival in our churches, in the church. Toward that end, examine yourself. Are you keeping holy? Are you keeping separate from the corrupting influence of the world around you? Or are you losing your savor? Rededicate your life to God. Do not settle for serving as nothing more than protection against slipping. Submit to God's will and be the fixative, the preservative, the cure of those around you that God would have you be?

Ephesians 2: 8 - 10 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.