June 15 – Salt and Light

June 15 – Salt and Light

Matthew 5:13-16

“You are like salt for all mankind. But if salt loses its taste, there is no way to make it salty again. It has become worthless, so it is thrown away and people walk on it.” (Matthew 5:13, TEV) “Let us work for the good of all.” (Gal 6:10 NEB)

Does your congregation have programs and involvement in ministries to effectively promote the welfare of the community at home and abroad? The church by its nature as the body of Christ is the visible embodiment of His presence on planet earth. Therefore, the local congregation needs to fulfill the purpose of being salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16). Jesus spelled out his interpretation of “light” – that men may see your good works and glorify God. There could be an evangelistic purpose in that. But what is salt? Did he have in mind flavor for an insipid society that insistently stays flat in godless living? Or did he have in mind the preservative influence of believers in a decaying society? At least the concept of influence, of permeating one’s environment with good, must be present.

The church is designed to be God’s visible evidence of His design and desire for each person. The world is to see in the church God’s own love and holiness. The people of God and the Spirit of God are in partnership to give the world truth (accurate definitions of sin, love and righteousness) so that people can know of the freedom and life that is so opposite of Satan’s kingdom.[39]

In that responsibility, two things come to mind: ministering mercy and seeking justice. The religious leaders of Christ’s day were strong on justice, as they interpreted it, but weak on mercy. Jesus emphasizes a major theme in the good news of the Kingdom of heaven. He desires mercy to govern our relationships (Matthew 9:9-13 and Matthew 12:1-8). This difference in their understanding of God’s priorities separated most of the religious leaders from Jesus. But God’s plan is for his people to pursue both justice and mercy for the welfare of its community. It is true that the record of Jesus’ ministry gives more space to reporting his healing ministry than his teaching ministry. His acts of mercy were intended as “signs” validating who he was, but, unlike Moses’ miracles, they were not merely signs pointing to God’s power; they were very focused – healing a broken humanity. It would seem the biblical way is to emphasize evangelism and then, through transformed lives, transform the community. “Redemption and lift,” Donald McGavran called the common phenomenon of societal reformation when large numbers become Christian.

Promoting community welfare should not be amputated from the purposes of the church. Throughout history the church has indeed fulfilled this purpose, taking the lead in providing health care and education, for example. In the Western world for centuries the only hospitals and schools were Christian. The same was true in pioneer missionary penetration of non-Western societies. In fact, often the church became so involved in seeking the earthly welfare of the community that the evangelistic mission was eclipsed. Nevertheless, the church, if true to the example of its Master will reach out in mercy to the surrounding community. The church presents the loving heart of Christ who came to seek and save by being a loving presence in the community. We are called to do this as a church, that is, and not merely through those members who do so privately from personal compassion. Nevertheless, it is much easier to go to a consistent extreme than to stay at the center of biblical tension and most of the evangelical church tends toward neglect of the social dimension of church responsibility. The question for us is to which extreme do we tend? Towards evangelism only or to only administering justice and mercy to the neglect of evangelism? Perhaps to neither, needing us to refocus on God’s priorities. Pray today that you might better love what God loves within the balance that He desires.

[39] John 8:34-37; John 10:10; John 16:7-11

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