Yesterday we visited the historic Wielizcka Salt Mine near Krakow, Poland. I have long been fascinated with White Gold (salt), and one of my favorite historical pieces is entitled White Gold: The Amazing Story of Thomas Jefferson's Mountain of Salt and the Discovery of the Great Salt Plains in northwestern Oklahoma. The Wielizcka Salt Mine was established in 1242, and because salt was as valuable as gold in ancient times -- the word "salary" comes from salt because wages were paid in salt -- the Wielizcka Mine eventually provided the King of Poland with one third of his kingdom's entire income. Amazingly, by the year 1493, just one year after "Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492," a twenty-year-old University of Krakov student named Copernicus visited the Wielizcka Salt Mine as a tourist. The statue pictured to the left, a statue made completely of salt, commemorates Coperincus' visit to the salt mine. As we walked through the various chambers, one couldn't help but notice the power of salt. Not only is it essential for life - for without it people die - but it is an amazing preservative. Not until refigeration and electricity were invented in the 19th century did salt begin to lose its value, for prior to this there was nothing else like salt. Even the wooden timbers placed in the mine in the 13th century look like they were cut down last week. Salt preserves life.
Jesus tells His followers that we are "the salt of the world" (Matthew 5:13). We, by our love and our conduct, preserve life the way it was meant to be lived - the Jesus way.
Our friend in Poland, Henrik Emmanuel Krul, told us that he first came to America in 1973 and he was amazed at how many people were openly reading their Bibles on the buses he traveled, bowing their heads and praying before meals in the restaurants where he ate, and stopping him on the streets to talk to him about Jesus Christ. Poland was still under communism in those days, and Henry told us that as he observed America for the first time, his thoughts went back to Poland and how his family had guests over for dinner and "father said, 'Henrik, go get the Bibles' and a fear would come over him. "The police were always looking for anyone who had a Bible, anyone who evangelized others, and anyone who prayed outside of the state churches. Communist authorities considered us subversives and were always seeking to jail us." Henry longed for the freedoms he saw in America; the bold Christian testimony that seemed everywhere around him.
My tour of the Wielizcka Salt Mine reminded me that Jesus has called all us who follow Him "salt." I want people who see me, who know me, who hear me, who live with me, to all find a "preserving influence" in my life; an encouragement to live for Christ and to love the kingdom of God more than the kingdom of self.
We are the salt of the world.