As our society has experienced rapid social change over the last 50 years, Christians have sought to relate to the secularization of society in very different ways. Some have sought to combat the culture, trying to “take back” the culture especially through legislation and political power. Others have sought to conform to the culture, assimilating and accommodating to the culture in order to stay relevant. Still others have withdrawn from the culture, staying secure in our Christian enclaves while the world goes its own way. (If you want an excellent survey of these approaches, I highly recommend James Davison Hunter’s book To Change the World).
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus employs two metaphors to describe the church that offer an entirely different way. Jesus says we are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” On the one hand, these metaphors emphasize distinction. We are to be different and set apart from the world, living by an entirely different set of values than the world around us. As salt is distinct from the food and light is distinct from the darkness, so we are called to be distinct from the world around us. On the other hand, these metaphors also emphasize penetration. For salt to be salt it must penetrate the meat, for light to be light it must engage the darkness. Jesus envisions his community as not just distinct, but as deeply engaged in the world, distributed in the culture, preserving what is good, holding back what is destructive.
How could we as Third Church be salt and light in our neighborhoods, our city and our world? We’ll explore that together this week.
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13 “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 underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 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.