Preparing for Peace
“Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy.” (Proverbs 12:20)
“Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (Mark 9:50)
People still use salt to preserve food in some places in the world where refrigeration is not available. It’s a good stabilizer, preventing food from spoiling, keeping some of its original nutrition. Salt water never loses its saltiness, so salt is always available. In the Old Testament, salt was used in at least a few instances to represent preservation of an agreement between people. During the conflicts between the divided kingdoms of Israel, Abijah confronted Jeroboam saying, “Ought you not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt?” (2 Chronicles 13:5) The covenant that God made with David, to give him an heir on the throne forever was “a perpetual one, which was inviolable, and never to be made void.” (1) There was also a use of salt when used “as a seasoning of food, which would point to a shared meal between the two parties of the covenant as symbolic of their friendship and the binding nature of their agreement.” (2) I imagine that Jesus had either one or both symbolic representations in mind when he instructs his disciples to have salt and be at peace with each other in Mark 9:50 (also Matthew 5:13; Luke 14:34).
It takes planning to preserve food or to prepare a meal to celebrate an agreement, just as it often takes planning to know how be at peace with others. Being sinners by nature, we hold our opinions, values, priorities, and perspectives to be superior and right without even thinking about them sometimes. Given the diversity of views in our world today, this is an unwise way to operate. While we may not think we are preparing to do evil, such as lying or deceiving others, we may well be self-deceived by the simple presumption that others should think as we do. This is not planning for peace, and will bring no joy, since very few of us agree on most things. So this is where the salt, or flavoring comes in, to preserve a relationship rather than let it spoil out of neglect or lack of preparation.
Salt also reminds us of the stability of the eternal covenant we have with Jesus Christ, which he will preserve for us through this life, death, and into glory (John 17:12; Jude 1:24). In this analogy, salt and peace are intimately intertwined, since we have the peace of God and peace with God only through the eternal covenant of adoption with Jesus, chosen by him to be his disciples, ambassadors of peace. “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
In Mark Chapter 9 Christ’s disciples were arguing about who was the greatest disciple, whether other men should be casting out demons in Jesus’s name, and trying to keep small children from bothering him. Jesus response was to stay salty and preserve peace with each other. Just as we add salt to a pot of soup with many other seasonings, or to a meat rub, the grace of the gospel should influence all the other flavors of our speech and behavior, bringing out their best attributes. Today we use salt to enhance caramel and chocolate desserts, because it enhances the flavor of the caramel or chocolate. So our speech, and behavior, our invitations and our conversations should be flavored with the gospel of Jesus Christ, as we plan for peace leading to joy.
The next time you make plans with friends, will you plan what you might converse about that will be flavored with gospel grace and preserve peace between you, so that you are planning the best way to encourage and lift up your friends with joy? If you are not a planner, how can you expect to have this special peace with people who are important to you?
(1) John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, 2 Chronicles 13:5, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2 chronicles-13.html
(2) ESV Study Bible Notes, 2 Chronicles 13:5, (digital edition), Crossway.