Beloit, WI

Beloit, WI
photo by Rod Gottfredsen

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Salt and Light in a tasteless, rotting, and dark world

When I was a young boy in the late 70s and early 80s, baseball cards were a huge deal.  Growing up in a rural area, our bus ride to school each day took just under an hour.  In the spring of the year, we would spend nearly the entire time trading baseball cards.  Trading among our group was relatively easy because each of us followed a different team.  In addition to my beloved Phillies; the Pirates (our home team), Yankees, Royals, Red Sox, Tigers, Dodgers, and Expos were all represented.  What I don’t remember is anyone ever trashing someone else’s team.  It’s not that we were so good and respectful (we weren’t), it’s that trash-talking wasn’t really a thing among young boys at that time.  I miss the days in which it was almost the expectation that everyone was going to have a different team and people didn’t feel compelled to run their faces about it.  Not so today!

Unfortunately, people speaking rudely about rival sports teams is far from being our most pressing problem.  We live in a culture which hates diversity.  The only time we hear people championing diversity is when they are trying to gain acceptance for their worldview.  Once acceptance is achieved, the slow march toward subverting and denying other perspectives begins.  It seems like once a viewpoint gains legitimacy, those who possess it seek to destroy all other points of view.

I am astounded by how hateful our society has become.  People who were once good friends choose to hate each other’s guts over their political viewpoints, preferred news outlets, etc.  It is truly astonishing to see the media celebrating the latest f-bomb or hateful remark made by our elected officials.  These people are leading the way in our culture’s race to the bottom, and their fans cheer them on.  Americans today enjoy the highest levels of education seen in our history and yet demonstrate a level of ignorance that would have made the barbarians jealous.  We live in a culture that glorifies vulgarity and meanness.

Not so for the Christian!  While the Church has become relatively shy when it comes to teaching our members about the claims that God makes on their lives - those claims are real nonetheless.  God demands something better from His people than the arrogance and ignorance that so marks us as Americans.  I can shrug off the ignorance of our elected officials, entertainers, and sports figures, but I can’t abide it from Christians.  What causes my blood to boil is to hear people say “Christians are no different than anyone else, we just know that we’re forgiven.”  LIE!  BALD-FACED LIE!  That is the very pinnacle of ignorance!  If one actually believes that for the sake of Jesus’ death in their place upon the Cross that they are forgiven - their lives will be different.  Faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ who takes away our sins produces love for God, love for the ways of God, and love for our neighbors for whom Jesus died.

The world needs Christians, but not the unchanged lip-service-giving variety - nobody needs them because they don’t bring anything new to the table.  If you read the history of western civilization you discover that there was a time when it was completely acceptable to leave unwanted children without necessary care so that they would die, women were not considered full-fledged people, education was not to be wasted on the poor, unspeakable sexual violence was committed against children, the enslavement of other people was commonly practiced (including in the US), and there was no such thing as charity.  While disgusting remnants of these evils remain to this day, a lot has changed.  What brought about these changes? - CHRISTIANITY.  Christians working within their societies is what changed the world for the better.

For those who have received the Holy Spirit and believe the good news that Jesus has died in their place, they have been made “salt” and “light” for the sake of a tasteless, rotting, and dark world.  In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared  “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).  Jesus doesn’t say “you need to become salt and light” - he says “you are salt and light.”

In Jesus’ day, there were no refrigerators.  Without salt, food spoiled much more quickly.  Consequently, there were periods in history when salt was as valuable as gold - look it up.  Of course, we also know that salt is used to flavor food.  A pinch of salt can turn something bland (think broccoli) into something very tasty.  Living in Wisconsin in the winter gives us the opportunity to experience a lot of darkness.  Don’t you love it when it starts staying light longer in the day, particularly after daylight savings time has kicked in?   As “salt,” we add significant value to the world around us - including the preservation of a society which is fixated on destructive behaviors and attitudes.  As “light,” we speak the truth lovingly to a world in which “good” is called “evil” and “evil” is called “good.”

Our society is experiencing a crisis in how we understand our humanity.  Issues such as sexuality, gender, abortion, and euthanasia appear to many people to be all but settled.  However, the God Who made us knows what is best for us and His Word outlines a different future.  America’s prevailing worldview is destroying people.  Study after study by sociologists, psychologists, and pediatricians reveal that the prevailing worldview in America is damaging to children, men, women, and the institutions which undergird a healthy society.  People around us need the truth that we have to share, but they will only hear it when they see us as people of credibility.  When we act as ignorant and mean as everyone else, we destroy our credibility before a watching world.  Being salt and light is to engage others in ways that are loving, winsome, and honest - Christlike.  Believe it or not, the people around us are waiting for the Christians to return to our task of speaking the truth in love.  (Ephesians 4:15).

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