Sunday, February 5, 2017

Disciples Who Are Salt and Light: Not Sour and Dark

I'm sure we've all met people who begin conversations by saying, "Well, I hate to sound negative" or "I hate to be critical."  We know with undeniable certitude that whatever comes out of their mouth next will undoubtedly be . . . negative or critical. It's been even worse during the never ending political climate over the past couple of years.  Some people are just plain miserable to be around. Everything turns into an occasion for complaining. You say, "Oh, isn't a beautiful day?" They reply,  "Well, don't get used to that. There probably aren't too many beautiful days left."  People like this kind of suck the life out of you, don't they?  Everything is terrible. Everything is going to hell.  Sometimes when I'm with people like this, I feel myself getting angry because I feel as though they are stealing life away from me.  And when they say, "I hate to sound negative," I want to say, "No you don't! You love to be negative!"

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his disciples that we are to be salt and light. Where life is dark, we are to be light. Where life is bland, we are to bring flavor. There is enough blandness in people's lives, they don't need more useless chatter and complaining. There is enough darkness in the world, people do not need more negativity. 

It would be easy to read the words of the Prophet Isaiah today and think about how other people do not live up to them. "Share your bread with the hungry. Shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked, do not turn your back on your own. Remove from your midst oppression, false accusation, and malicious speech." It is easy to look at others and to say that they fail to do this. But the real question for each of us is, "Are we doing these things?" Are we introducing something new into the world and into people's lives? Are we being salt and light in the world or are we just a bunch of negative whiners and complainers pointing out how bad things are? When people leaver our company, do they feel as though their life is better as a result; that they've tasted the life of grace and been warmed and enlightened by the Gospel? Or, do they feel like they've met someone who is angry and negative about everything?

There is a lot of cruelty in the world. A lot of anger, negativity, darkness, and selfishness. Sometimes, Christians can be tempted to spend all of their time angrily pointing out all the negativity, darkness, and selfishness, but in doing so, they only contribute to all of that. Instead, Jesus calls us to be salt and light. We are invited to add something to life by providing examples of what life can be. When people encounter joy, generosity, humility, purity, uplifting and edifying speech etc, they walk away having tasted something better. 

As we live the week ahead, we will encounter many people. Chances are, their social media is filled with negativity. Chances are, they experience--on all sorts of levels--emptiness, darkness, and blandness. They know that there is evil in the world. There are any number of people who will engage these people with a big dose of more negativity. "Oh you think that's bad . . . it's way worse than that!"  But Jesus wants to open for these people something better. These people whom we encounter--they are hungry for meaning. They are naked and exposed to the cruelty of the world. They are lost in the darkness and are looking for a way. The way in which we speak and engage with them can make all the difference. We can be light and salt by pointing out places where the Truth of the Gospel is at work. 

Instead of only talking about how unjust it is that the poor are hungry, the refugee is suffering, and the unborn are discarded, we could be salt and light. We could give some of our bread, welcome the oppressed, and refrain from malicious speech. These things aren't as "big" as some dramatic gesture, but salt and light are not all that dramatic either. They are every day experiences, but everybody is looking for them.

Jesus did not say that we are sour and darkness. He said we are salt and light. Let's be that this week and allow people to experience how great and necessary the Christian life really is.

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