Thursday, November 15, 2007

Salted with Fire

Everyone will be salted with fire. (Mark 9:49)

Sometimes the rabbit chases of Bible study provide the meatiest dinners.

I was trying to chase down the meaning of Col. 4:6 - "Let your speech be gracious, seasoned with salt". Researching the other usages of "salt", especially in the New Testament, proved instructive and helpful. But when I came across this one, I stopped in my tracks.

Salted with fire. Whatever could that mean? I love the translation of The Message: "Everyone's going through a refining fire sooner or later." From my study, I think that's a pretty good translation. It certainly fits the context of the remainder of the passage:

"Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other." (Mark 9:49-50)

Salt is developed within us - "in yourselves", Jesus said. It is associated with being at peace with each other. And we are salted with fire.

I picture it like this: As the refining fire "burns off" the impurities in us, it "salts" us, leaving behind the salt that preserves. Salt, for the ancients, was more than a flavorful addition to avoid if they had high blood pressure. It was so essential that it was even used to symbolize sealing a covenant - it was critical. It protected food from putrefaction in a hot climate without refrigeration. It was used to fertilize land, and to preserve food from change. The "salt" left behind by a refining fire authenticates us, "preserves" the changes God is working in us, protects us.

So how does that relate to my original question? If our speech is gracious, seasoned with salt, we are going to be speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), and it will have an air of authenticity about it - because we live it out, we have learned it in the fire. Bottom line: Going through the fire is necessary if I want to be the kind of person Scripture commands me to be!

What fire are you facing today? What health struggles, spiritual battles, personal obstacles, political events, are burning around you? Stay close to God - let this be a refining fire. Ask Him to use this to deposit salt within you, so that you can speak and act "seasoned with salt" - the authentic Christian life that only comes after the fire.

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