Jesus tells us that we are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (cf. Matt 5:13-14). That’s a bold reality to embrace. Think about it…*
Salt is meant for the earth and light is for the world. So each metaphor tells us that as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called into the world for the sake of the world. Yet salt and light are both useless if they are not different from the element they are added into. So each metaphor tells us that as disciples of Jesus Christ, we must be different from the world for the sake of the world.
Randy Harris asks, “Are Christians so separate from the world that they can’t make any difference in the world? Or have Christians become so much like the world that they’re not different enough to make any difference?” (Living Jesus, 39).
Feel the tension? This tension evokes the old cliché of being in the world but not of the world. It’s the tension of John 17:17-18 where Jesus prays that we are both “sanctified” (set apart) and “sent.” But the tension of living as salt and light is set within the Sermon on the Mount, which is all about living the kingdom way of life. That’s important to keep in mind.
This isn’t a call to avoid places like a pub, a party, or anything of similar venues that fundamentalism has often demanded of Christians (see Tuesday’s post). Rather this is a call to be among these places and the people there in an incarnational way just as Jesus was with the sinner’s and tax collectors, which resulted in him drawing the accusation of being a drunkard and glutton (cf. Lk 7:34). This doesn’t mean that we become drunkards and gluttons, though we may surely engage in activity that some will use as evidence to make such accusations (just as Jesus apparently was doing). What we are doing is living as kingdom people among the neighbors and community without judgment but instead living, listening and serving, witnessing without words and sermons until we are given the privilege to speak.
Several years ago I was helping a minister friend of mine who has been a church planter in the north metro area of Denver, Colorado. We received an invitation to a wine and cheese tasting party where a bunch of twenty-something single adults were attending. We showed up, sampled wine and sampled cheese. But as the party carried on, we ended up having a conversation about who Jesus was. It wasn’t a conversation monopolized by us but rather a give and take dialogue. Consequently, out of that wine and cheese tasting party a new house church was established and several people eventually became disciples of Jesus Christ.
Oh to be the salt of the earth and light of the world. It’s something I’m still learning to do but I’m convinced more and more that if we are going to live as salt and light, it’s going to take us to frontier where at least segments of the Christendom culture among Christianity would rather not go. Nevertheless, we must go because that’s who we are…salt and light.
If you missed it, here is a comment from Kevin Copeland that was made on Tuesday’s post about kingdom living among a bar in Houston, Texas:
This blog article reminded me of an experience that I had over a year ago. One Thursday night I drove my son down to Houston for his gymnastic training and I had a four hour wait. I sat in the gym for about an hour on my ipad and then I got bored. It had been a long day, a long drive down there and I decided to go around the corner to this place called The Concert Pub for a beer. It was a nice night, so I sat outside at the little patio bar. There was only one other couple out there and myself. The bartender, a very young girl with tattoos and piercing galore, asked me what I was having and I asked for my favorite beer, Shiner Bock. She brought my beer and proceeded to start up a conversation with the people next to me whom she obviously knew outside of the bar. As it turned out, she had two rows of piercings down both sides of her back with heavy gage rings in each piercing and she participated in exhibitions where she would be suspended up in the air by these rings. She was talking to this couple about the previous weekends exhibition and showing them pictures from the event. She also showed me the pictures as to not make me feel like I was excluded. So I engaged her in conversation about tattoos and piercings. Things that she was obviously passionate about.
In the mean time another young girl walked up and sat down right next to me and I noticed that she had a pentagram necklace on as she was walking up. After a while I asked her if she was a Wiccan or if she was just into Heavy Metal. She looked at me oddly and said, “Excuse Me?” So I pointed at her necklace. At which point she rubbed the necklace nervously and put it inside her shirt. Then she said, “How do you know about Wicca.” So I told her that I had known a white witch when I was in high school, playing drums in Heavy Metal bands. So we got into a conversation about Wicca, witches, warlocks and Heavy Metal music. Come to find out, her brother had given her the necklace and had introduced her to Wicca.
I sensed that God was doing something here in these conversations, but I wasn’t sure what. I kept wanting to put my evangelist hat on and talk about Jesus, but it seemed like the Holy Spirit was telling me to just hold on. After over an hour of talking about tattoos, piercings, witches and music, the Wiccan turned to me and asked me, “So, what do you believe in.” I smiled and politely said, “I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ and somewhat of a preacher.” The bartender said, “Oh Great! I guess you’re here to convert us then?” To which I replied, “Nope, I’m here to drink a beer, please bring me one more.” The Wiccan turned to me and said, “Please, tell me what you believe about Christ. I would really like to know. So I began talking to them about Christ and how he displayed the grace and mercy of a loving heavenly Father and tried to answer all of their questions about, God, the Bible and Jesus Christ.
When I noticed the time, I payed the check, told the girls that I had to go pick up my son and get him home, and got up to leave. When I stood up from the bar stool the bartender reached over the bar and gave me the biggest hug. Then the Wiccan turned to me and hugged me for the longest time and didn’t want to let go. When she finally pulled away I must have had a very shocked look on my face, because she apologized and said, “I’m sorry, I’ve just never met a Christian, much less a preacher, like you before. Most Christians judge us because of the tattoos, piercings, witchcraft, drinking and working at a bar. I never would have imagined that anyone like you would sit here in a pub with people like us, drink a beer with us and tell us about Jesus. This was just so weird and cool, and I”m very overwhelmed right now.” I told her, “You are probably overwhelmed right now by the light of Christ’s love for you. God really does love you, you know?”
As I got in my car to drive back to the gym this is what came to me: “That’s what the woman at the well looks like today!” A few weeks later I saw these girls again and I told them about a church down in Houston that was open and welcomed people with tattoos and piercings. Heck, even the pastor has ink. They also wouldn’t freak out over the Wicca stuff. Last I heard they were attending there and God was transforming their lives. Anyway, this blog made me smile, because it reminded me of this story.
* See my previous post The Gospel and the Pub.