Think about your life and the people who have helped to make you who you are. Some taught you formal lessons as your teachers. Perhaps it was someone you never knew except through the pages of a book or a podcast. Others influence through proximity. They are ‘around us’ and their ideas and values subtly transfer into our lives. I reminded my kids when they were growing up that the people with whom they chose to ‘hang out’ would have an influence on them. Your friends do, too, regardless of your age!
Jesus speaks to our influence in the world using two easily understood metaphors. The words are in His Sermon on the Mount. “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16, NIV)
Salt, for us, is mainly a flavoring in our food. The right amount makes that bowl of soup delicious. In Jesus’ day, salt was incredibly valuable. Having no refrigeration, salt was a primary preservative for their food. We best understand His word to us about our influence from that perspective. Christians are not just a bit of pleasant flavor in the world, they are the preservative influence, the people through whom the Spirit pushes back hatred, restraining evil. The role is not just a passive one, it is a robust calling that engages with the rot of sin. Are you a person God can use to make a measurable difference in your world?
Light does so much more than dispel the darkness. I am glad that I can flip a switch and walk through a once darkened room, now lit up, without falling over the furniture. I am glad that the floodlight on the side of my house lets me come home in the dark of night and see if the local bear or skunk is hanging around my garage! I would not want to stumble into a close encounter with either of those creatures.
But, light does more. Light brings out beauty! Think of the sun’s rays shining through the atmosphere at sunset. The colors created by the refracted light are a delight. So, too, Christian, as God, the Holy Spirit, fills us with light we shine into the world and bring beauty. Do you? Are you cognizant of His presence and shining in a way that causes others to ‘see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven?’
A frequent phrase in my prayer, both public and private, is “Lord, by your Spirit working in me, help me to make a measurable influence in my world.” My desire is to defeat the rot and reveal the beauty of life! The answer to that prayer requires that I choose to be involved, that I use my head and hands to serve others.
Sometimes that is accomplished with concern. Note the weary or worn and offer a word of encouragement. Take time to speak with that person who spends life largely in the shadows. Are those life-changing choices? Maybe not, but they are ‘salt and light’ choices. When you can wisely engage someone who is living a lie, chasing the wrong dream, or ignoring God by sharing the truth, in love, you are being salt and light. Honestly, I’ll admit that life is simpler if I choose to remain ignorant of need, if I hide my eyes from suffering, if I choose not to see sin around me; but my Lord demands that I care.
No matter how wise and gentle we are, as Christians, we must expect a reaction when we are genuinely practicing our faith. Jesus, who was Love Incarnate, provoked reactions ranging from adoration of a woman who washed His feet with her tears to hatred of Pharisees who plotted His death. Salt brings out the flavor of the soup and it stings when used to cleanse a wound. Light shows the way through the dark and it reveals hidden sins.
So, are you having a measurable influence on your world?
When you’re around do people feel the love, see the light, and react?
Some will love you, some will hate you. That’s as it will be.
Jesus was clear about this. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18, NIV)
The word from the Word is that same text quoted before, this time from The Message, a contemporary paraphrase of the Gospel. Jesus says, “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.
God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-15, The Message)
Let’s make a measurable difference in our world for Christ – with consistently loving, holy lives, full of God’s beauty!
There’s nothing worth more that will ever come close
No thing can compare You’re our living hope
I’ve tasted and seen of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free and my shame is undone
In Your Presence Lord
Holy Spirit You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your Presence Lord
Your Presence Lord
Your Presence Lord
Oh God how we love Your Presence Lord
Let us become more aware of Your Presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness (Lord)
Bryan and Katie Torwalt © 2011 Capitol CMG Genesis (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
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