Salt & Light

“A Christianity which has lost its vertical dimension has lost its salt and is not only insipid in itself, but useless to the world. But a Christianity which would use the vertical preoccupation as a means to escape from its responsibility for and in the common life of man is a denial of the incarnation.”[1]

Yesterday we talked about one of my favorite passages in Scripture, found in Matthew 5:13-16. Here is a different translation of the passage by Eugene Peterson in The Message: “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.”

Walking this fine line of living in the world while not becoming a product of the world is a difficult undertaking, yet that is the call for Christians. Christ tells His followers to be “in but not of” the world. To be honest, though, there are not many individuals or churches that I know of that do this extremely well. The ones that do attempt to walk this fine line eventually fall off to one side or the other in the process. That is to be expected, and I commend those who still try to walk this fine line knowing that they are not going to make mistakes along the way.

What I have been thinking about in the last 24 hours is the process that takes place after an individual or church goes too far to one side or the other. I’ve noticed that we are quick to confess when we become too much like the world around us. This is a good, healthy and biblical thing. My question is why do we not practice this more often on the flip side? Why do we not feel compelled to confess the error of our ways when we have become isolated, indifferent and disengaged from the world around us? Yes we should continue to confess when we have lost our “saltiness” and look like everyone around us. We also should confess when we have put our lamp “under a bucket” and lived our lives in isolation from the world around us.

[1] From the 1968 World Council of Churches.

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