It's a fair question. A student in my Old testament Survey class asked it the day after the senseless killings in Las Vegas. If 62% of our nation professes to be Christian why does the world around us seem to be going you know where is a hand-basket? There was no use playing footsie with it, you know, getting mired in the theological rhetoric about the origin of evil, the eventual destiny of a world living on the dark side, the halo effect of people checking the "Christian" blank on census questionnaires, or the emergence of nominal Christians in the hip world of twenty-first century spirituality. She wanted to know why a majority of the American population didn't have a more profound influence on society. My answer was simple. Two things. One, most of us no longer believe we're supposed to influence the world around us. And, two, most of us can hardly distinguish our lifestyles from the secular worldview that drives so much of life today. Except in marketing or sales the power of influence is just passe. Hey, bud. My life is none of your business. Don't force your religion on me.
Of course it's just opinion. My research department is asking Harriet what she thinks. So, let's get it out of the way. The two simple thoughts are merely my opinion. But, there's some biblical meat to it. Like the expectation that Christians influence the world around them. Surely we can agree that the central theme of Jesus' teaching about salt and light was his vison that followers would provide a Godly influence to the people in their life circle. He said---
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be
restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under
people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do
people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in
the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your
good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:13-16, ESV
These words were addressed to his disciples. The multitude around them may have heard them and even identified with them. They certainly new about salt, light, cities on a hill, baskets, and to some degree, good works. Jesus, however, aimed the truth of these words to his disciples, who "came to him" according to Matthew's text. He expected them to season the world around them and shine in it.
They are two brilliant metaphors of the Christian life, salt and light. Having traveled to Israel seven times I know the contextual framework of both references, and grasp the depiction of both as spiritual virtues. The salt has to stay salty, and the light has to remain visible. Much has been written about it and I can add little to what the great theologians of history have concluded about each. Mostly, they emphasize the influence Christ intended to observe in his followers.
Of the two, the salt reference may be the most current for me. I mean, who doesn't love their salt. Our old age evenings are usually with a college football game, a binge TV replay, or a good classic movie. And, yes, potato chips, nachos, pop corn, peanuts, and other delectables, usually seasoned with salt. What's the outcome of all of this salt? it makes us thirsty. Drag out the water.
And, for me, that's a vivid picture of spiritual influence. We're supposed to make people thirsty. You know, thirsty for water. Keep it going, for living water. And, that's a spiritual virtue in a world like ours, how to do this in the manner of the one who spoke it to his disciples.
Yes, we're to influence our world. How? Stay tuned this week. Let's talk abut it.
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