by Keith Sharp
In February 1992, while I was in Nigeria, the late brother Joseph Onyemaechi took me far out into the bush near Aba to preach on Sunday evening to a new congregation he had started. We were honored with the presence of several village dignitaries. When I was through preaching, the chief spoke for the villagers. He welcomed me and the new, little church. He acknowledged I had spoken the truth. Then he observed, “We will watch the people you convert. If they live good lives, you will convert many from our village. If not, you will not.” The chief was both wise and a fine judge of human nature.
In Matthew 5:13-16, the Master teaches us our responsibility to the world. We are salt and light. By successfully so acting, we will lead the world to glorify God. How can we
effectively be salt and light for Christ?
The function of salt is to preserve meat and to make otherwise unpalatable food tasty (cf. Job 6:6). God rules the world in righteousness (Psalm 9:8; 97:2; Revelation 19:15). Where there are no righteous people, a nation will perish (cf. Genesis 18:16-33). The righteous lives and influence on others of Christians preserves the nation and makes society palatable to God.
But to cure or flavor food, salt must be in contact with the food. Christians are to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:14-18). If we are to influence people in the community for good, we must be among them. We need to be friends with them, have them into our homes, and go to innocent functions of mutual interest. Jesus mingled socially with sinners in order to save them (Matthew 9:9-13), and we must do the same.
In ancient Palestine, salt was dug from the ground or recovered from salt marshes. If moisture dissolved the sodium chloride (salt) from the compound, a residue would be left. This residue was useless to preserve or flavor but had enough saltiness left to sterilize land on which it was thrown. It was worse than useless; it was a nuisance. It was carefully swept up and thrown on footpaths, were at least it would do no harm (cf. Luke 14:34-35).
Christians who cease to live righteous lives are worse than useless; they hinder the cause of Christ (cf. Romans 2:21-24). They are a discouragement to their brethren and a stumbling block to the lost. and thrown on footpaths, were at least it would do no harm (cf. Luke 14:34-35).
Christians who cease to live righteous lives are worse than useless; they hinder the cause of Christ (cf. Romans 2:21-24). They are a discouragement to their brethren and a stumbling block to the lost.
The Master called us “the light of the world.”
The physical light of the sun is the basis of and absolutely essential to earthly life. It provides energy, warmth, and visibility. It guides, heals, protects from evil, and exposes things hidden in darkness.
Jesus boldly announced, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). He is the source of spiritual life (John 1:4). The Son is the sun that lightens the world. He shows us God (John 14:7), guides us to Him (John 14:6), protects us from evil (John 10:27-30), and exposes the evil lurking in the darkness of ignorance and sin (John 3:20).
Christians are to reflect to the world in our lives the life Jesus lived upon earth (2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Peter 2:21-22). We are the moon that reflects the light of the sun (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). Our lights thus shine as we live “in all goodness, righteousness, and truth” (Ephesians 5:8-11). As Jesus “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38), so should we (Acts 20:35). Our friends, neighbors, and acquaintances will see Jesus in us as we befriend the poor and lowly; live
honest, morally upright lives; love each other; do good in return for evil; show mercy to our friends in their troubles and heartaches; try to gently lead them from their sins; speak of things that are pure; and put God first in our lives.
Poor, Jewish homes had the light of a single oil lamp. It would be foolish to light such a lamp and then cover it with a basket. When sin, selfishness, lack of concern for others, and apathy for the Lord characterize our lives, our light is smothered.
A city built on a hill cannot be concealed from the enemy. Because of the peculiar claims of God’s people, we are conspicuous to the world (Hebrews 12:22-23). We must be especially careful to have our “conduct honorable” before a hypercritical world (1 Peter 2:9-12).
The result of such lives is that people of the world “may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” People glorify God by believing and obeying His will (Ephesians 1:12).
How shall we lead our lost friends, neighbors, loved ones, and acquaintances to Christ? We must be the light of the world. If our lives reflect Christ, our words will be effective. If not, no amount of preaching and teaching will hide our misdeeds from the people we are seeking to reach. “Let your light so shine…”