In a day and age when Christianity is diluted by the culture and discredited by many, Christians are left to wonder what it is to live a life obedient to Christ and therefore impact a virulent society. With such opposition and difficulty Christians have a tendency to bend in two ways: a quiet faith or an oppositional obedience. Some take to a quiet faith that is lived inside the boxes either they or society has forced them to retreat into. While others choose to live obediently on the outside but internally have malice-filled hearts and an embittered tone towards the “other” and the “those people.” A faith like this will be trampled by society. A form of obedience as such will be overlooked by and hidden from society.
In Matthew 5-7, Jesus contrasts a trampled and hidden life with a posture of obedience that breaks the typical “religious” mold and brings God’s heavenly Kingdom to a broken earth. Having "opened His mouth," Jesus gives clarity to what it means to be blessed by God in Matthew 5:1-11. Jesus then moves on to explain the identity of those who truly live like Kingdom disciples and the identity of those who do not live so. There are those who obey, they who are called “salt” and “light,” and there are those who do not obey, those who are “trampled” and “hidden.”
Like salt, His obedient followers heal, preserve, and give taste to a broken world. They heal by loving their enemies (5:44), by praying for their enemies (5:44), and by being “peacemakers” in a hostile culture (5:9). They preserve the world by their purity in heart (5:8), by their meekness (5:5), and by their resistance to anger (5:21-26). They give taste by being conscious of their need of a Savior (5:3), by their joy in persecution (5:11-12), by treating others as they would desire to be treated (5:12).
As light does, those who follow Jesus expose a dark world and bring clarity to it. They expose darkness by mourning the effects of sin against them, against others, and across the world, but with a unique and holy comfort (5:3). They expose the darkness (and hollowness) of a materialistic society by expecting provision and satisfaction from their Father (6:33). They bring clarity in a confused age by asking, seeking, and knocking on their Father’s door for help, by building their lives on the timeless wisdom of Jesus (that does not shift, nor fail) (7:24-27) and by walking with a clear purpose on a narrow trail (7:13-14).
But, for those who choose to be disobedient to Jesus’ call, they are likened to trampled salt and hidden light - both of which are useless. These are those who tout Christianity yet refuse to understand their neighbor’s point of view. They are those who are fluent in "Christianese" and veterans in Christian work, but do not actually know Jesus. Of what use is doctrine without a repentant purity? For that adds no taste to the world. And what kind of help is a peacemaker who has no concern for dependence on God? Such labor will be no different from the world - it is hidden.
To be sure, a Christian is never perfect in this life, but in light of imperfection, it is imperative to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (3:8). Being salt and light means repentance with obedience. Therefore, Jesus is not simply calling for a grieved heart, nor is He commanding His people to do a lot of works (7:21-23). No, Jesus calls for obedience with repentance with the opening line of His sermon: “Blessed are the poor in spirit...” (5:3). To realize one’s poverty in spiritual living to God yet to be rich in good works - this is what gives a heavenly reflection, a heavenly light, a heavenly taste of His reign and goodness on earth below.
Christians are salt and light whenever they engage the world with the love of Christ while being aware of their sinfulness. They are salt and light when they give generously to those who are undeserving, knowing they too didn’t deserve the lavish Gift of the Father. They make peace with people that may end up wronging them, knowing that God reconciled enemies to Himself knowing they would still offend Him. To be salt and light is to serve those who may never come to Christ as their King, remembering that it is by the sheer grace of God that they are saved. A faith and obedience that serves in brokenness with a brave confidence in the kindness of God will not be trampled nor will it be hidden.