The power of example.
Creating thirst in others isn't the convicting power that can initiate spiritual awakening in them. It's simply the way one person's life can inspire and motivate another when they've experienced or expressed a need for change. It's the powerful influence of personal example, the idea Jesus expressed to his disciples when he spoke to them about being salt and light. 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
The metaphors of salt and light were among the first word pictures Jesus gave his disciples to help them understand their influence in the world. They were instructions about how Christ followers were to conduct themselves in this life. He mediated these concepts to them with the intro "In the same way..." and then briefed them with a distinctive "let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven." With our many variations aside, he clearly defined the meaning behind them. Salt and light are the "good works" that aim people to something higher. In my mind being salt is living a life that others would find meaningful. Perhaps they would "thirst" for the attributes of that life. That is, if they can observe them through the muddle of our own human failings.
Two things seem distracting here. One, good works cannot be reduced to the "do-gooder' sentiment so obvious in our self-help, psycho-babble world. A culture with few absolutes spins in a frenzy of well-intentioned aims. The good works mentioned by Jesus are those that direct people to the Father, meaning, they have genuine spiritual value consistent with biblical instruction. The second item is more cutting. These good works are to be observed. Which means they have to be lived out and distinguished from all the other actions in a world on the make. If there is to be power in this example, it must be the power of a genuinely changed life, or, as one author has commented, the voice and not the echo of the world's noise.
This example is central to our understanding of influence, especially spiritual influence. Jesus said, "For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done for you" (John 13:15, ESV). Peter wrote, "But if you do good...this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:20-21, ESV). The example of Christ and those Bible followers who so clearly were salt and light in their worlds compel us to provide those same influences that our world so desperately needs.
Influence? Yes. It is my responsibility and yours. We must express it wisely.
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