“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold” is the vivid way J. B. Phillips paraphrases Romans 12:2.
Distinctiveness is an essential facet of righteous living. Righteous Noah, for example, was clearly different than the generation which perished in the Flood. The lifestyle of righteous Lot was fundamentally unlike the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah.
After describing His righteous disciples as the salt of the earth, Jesus immediately warns against the danger and uselessness of failing to be distinctive: “but if the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Matthew 5:13). To be effective, salt must be distinctive.
For salt to be a useful force in sustaining life, creating thirst, seasoning food, and cleansing a wound (see yesterday’s post “Are You Doing Your Job?”), it must be in immediate contact with its intended target. To be the salt of the earth, you must live on the earth and be outside the saltshaker; therefore, when praying for His apostles, Jesus said, “I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:15).
There is an inherent risk in this. It is possible that “the earth” influences “the salt” instead of “the salt” influencing “the earth”. Both physically- and spiritually-speaking, it is possible for salt to lose its distinctiveness without losing its general appearance. It is possible for a Christian who is to be in the world to be squeezed into the world’s mold, and thus corrupted into a state of being of absolutely no use or value to God or humanity: Good for Nothing!
To be the salt of the earth, you must be distinctive.