The clarion call was issued to the church to be “salt and light” to the community when Jesus explained the new, Christian ethos in his Sermon on the Mount. After the receipt of salvation, “the sermon shows us how we should live in the service of our gracious God” (Morris, 92). The First Century church and those practicing early Christianity posited themselves as the agents of the kingdom of God and sought to affirm with their actions the realities of the inaugurated eschatological kingdom. The church and Christian communities were committed to
“the steadfast rejection of violence; the tender care for children; the welcoming inclusion of ‘sinners,’ the weak, the ill, women, Gentiles, and servants; the resolute impartiality and fearlessness in the face of hierarchies of power; and above all, the command to love God and neighbor with every fiber of one’s being.” (Gushee, 139).
The church was likewise known by their separation from political affairs and social distancing from the pervasive Hellenistic culture (Gushee, 140). Such attitudes of separation produced lower prioritization to their national heritage and culture, in so much as it was against their primary affiliation with the culture of Christ and the Christian community.
Both the Sermon on the Mount and the zeal with which early Christians pursued its tenets provide modern Christians a resounding example and challenge to examine if the culture has too significantly shaped the church. Lewis and Wilkins observed that, “Those in the world often see believers who are ‘under the Word’ falling woefully short of the supernatural lifestyles the Scripture presents” (Lewis and Wilkins, 24). Has the church “lost its savor” and failed to “shine the light” by intertwining with the culture? Before you answer, consider the issues of sexuality, materialism, technology, and language as it influences Christian thought and behavior.
Churches must overcome two general challenges if they are to become or remain “salt” and “light” to their communities: an excessive emphasis on internal ministry and their reluctance to engage their communities in culturally understandable ways. Predominant internal focus breeds isolation, the antithesis of outreach into the community. A church cannot influence the world if it withdraws from interaction with it. As Blomberg warned, “We dare not form isolated Christian enclaves to which the world pays no attention” (Blomberg, 103). Churches must learn to balance orthodoxy and outreach. By learning the lessons from the failures of the social gospel, in which “social compassion [was] shorn of spiritual truth,” churches must present the gospel through “proclamation and incarnation” (Lewis and Wilkins, 207). The world is waiting to see the living proof that the God of the Gospel is real within the lives of those who claim to know and follow Him.
Therefore, churches must learn to recognize and respond in support of those who will experience the fallout from the present cultural crises, such as the ongoing sexual revolution or human rights violations from gang violence to terrorism. The post-modern mind seeks experience as validation of truth; therefore, as Lewis and Wilkins avowed, “Without practically attractive, spiritually compelling, proof-positive lifestyles, what good are our claims and pronouncements about a life-changing God?” (Lewis and Wilkins, 60). Social issues are the fruit of rebellion against God (Deu 8:1-20; Isa 1:4-20), but while society’s cultural curators advocate actively their positions, there are many Christians who have opted for a passive role. Isolated in their contentment with their convictions, Christians keep silence and remain still while the Word of God demands a voice and a vocation. Christians must take their biblical beliefs into the community by demonstrating gospel-centered behavior to counter the issues at hand. God’s people can involve themselves personally by investing in someone individually. Further, by partnering with various ministry organizations, Christians and churches can become involved with efforts to create or support ministries in order to provide assistance and to ultimately deliver a platform to share the gospel. To do so is to stave off the decay of the world and to repel the darkness as “salt” and “light” would do.
My challenge to you: identify what “salty” and “shiny” actions churches and Christians can take to ensure that Christ is attractive to those who desperately need rescue from the decay and the darkness. Identify what ministry efforts can be undertaken to ensure the “light” is spread in the community without the damaging effects of cultural corruption on the church. Once you’ve done that, find a way to take action! Talk with your Christian friends, teachers, and pastors to see what you can do to become involved in “shaking your salt” and “shinning your light” around your community!
Blomberg, C. Matthew. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992.
Gushee, David P. The Sacredness of Human Life. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2013.
Lewis, Robert and Wilkins, Roy. The Church of Irresistible Influence. Zondervan, 2001.
McIntosh, Gary, L. Biblical Church Growth. Baker Books, 2003.
Morris, L. The Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids: Inter-Varsity Press, 1992.