In his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, John Stott reminds his readers that if Matthew 5:3-12 (the Beatitudes) is about a Christian’s character, then Matthew 5:13-16 is about a Christian’s influence in this world. I have always loved the words of Matthew 5:13-16 which describe that Christian influence as salt and light. To me they represent the best of what the right balance of inward piety or holiness and outward action should be.
As Stott says, Jesus doesn’t tell us to go out and be salt and light. He tells us that that’s what we already are in Christ… as those who are new creatures in Christ and whose character is reflected in the Beatitudes. It’s similar to Peter’s words that we are holy so we should go and be holy. We are to “go be who we already are,” Jesus and Peter seem to teach us.
As I said, I love this text because it strikes an important connection and balance between inward piety and outward action. The inward and private pursuit of the devotional life… of introspection and reflection is vital… but if it never moves one forward to “live” the life of Christ, then it can become an empty and useless form of asceticism. A person can become quickly self-absorbed in their own stuff if one’s piety never leaves the prayer closet or Bible study. To be sure, in my opinion, this is not the greatest threat to the church today. Would that more people spent more time in the prayer closet and Bible study. That leads me to the other side of the coin.
As important as outward action (good works, etc.) is, if godly character is not undergirding and directing it, then it can become nothing more than the cause de jour. It can also become a judgmental and self-centered way to build yourself up. Not only that, without the knowledge of Christ and the godly character that comes from that relationship, such action can quickly lead to burnout and disillusionment because, to paraphrase Jesus in John 15, the branch was attempting to do all the work without being connected to the vine. Thus, the branch lacked sustenance, power, and direction.
To live as the salt and light that Jesus declares we already are is to exercise the godly influence of the Kingdom of God in the midst of the decay and darkness of the Kingdom of this world. I won’t exegete the text here, but that’s the gist… at least part of it… of what I hope to accomplish in and through my ministry.
I see a key focus of my ministry as educating, equipping, and encouraging disciples of Jesus Christ to take up the call to extend the Lord’s Kingdom into every sphere of their lives as salt and light. Whether it’s building up one’s own faith and character to more faithfully live as salt and light or living out that faithfulness at home with one’s family, with friends, at school, at work, at church, in their neighborhood, community, city or town, in our culture or in our world… I want to help folks
live out their (our) calling to be salt and light in today’s world.
I stated in another post, that God gives each Christian, at least at some level, the Call of Issachar. That is, we’re called to know the world (culture) in which we live, work, etc., so that we might be this very salt and light influence. My "Good Reads for Kingdom-Minded Men" tries to capture this idea. Indeed, the whole website does.
In and through the links I provide, I hope to encourage disciples of Jesus Christ - Kingdom Ambassadors - to grow in their understanding of their world so that they can more clearly see how our Lord claims every sphere of it as his own. I hope that this material will do more than inform those who read what I share, but will actually equip them to minister to those God has entrusted to their care in their various spheres of influence.
May God add his blessing toward that end.
The “spheres” that I hope to include will be…
Grace and Truth,