In 1961 meteorologist Edward Lorenz was working on a weather prediction and decided to check his forecast by running a model one more time. When he input the data he rounded off one number from .506127 to .506. It seemed a trivial difference, but he was shocked when the prediction came out radically different. He later published a paper discussing a theory about how seemingly minute differences in a complex system can have enormous consequences. His theory has come to be known as the Butterfly Effect after one scientist described his theory by asking, “does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” We learn from this that we don’t know what will be the ultimate effect of even seemingly small actions we take.
I would conclude from Jesus’ words that this world is in need of something. It needs salt, which preserves and flavors. It needs light, for it is in darkness. This is no secret to anyone who has looked around. The world is suffering from the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of evil and the darkness of fear and hopelessness. Listen to the voices. In the song Weight of the World popular group “Evanescence” sings “Don’t cling to me, I swear I can’t fix you. Still in the dark, can you fix me…Feels like the weight of the world, like all my screaming has gone unheard.”
The people whom Jesus called “salt” and “light” in the Sermon on the Mount were an unlikely bunch. They were not educated. They were poor. They had no influence and no power in the world. They were considered insignificant at best by anyone who “mattered.” Yet Jesus said they were the ones who had what the world needed most. Indeed, it was those people, those “nobodies,” who, knowing their failings and their need for God’s grace, followed Jesus and brought the life-transforming eternally good news of him to the world.
Salt and light share something in common. They change things. Salt changes flavor and stops decay. Light puts an end to darkness. To followers of Jesus Christ he now says we are the salt and light that this world needs. We are here to make a difference. We may see ourselves as insignificant and utterly incapable of changing this world. But we are what the world needs. Like that seemingly insignificant crowd that first heard those words about salt and light, what we have can totally transform lives. We never know what the eventual effect of sharing our little bit of light will be. What we do know is that God can take our little bit and make something great out of it, just like he did 2000 years ago. Jesus tells us we have what the world needs, and he calls us to make a difference.