"Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
-- Matthew 5:16
Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" is recorded in Matthew 5-7. The Beatitudes constitute the opening of the sermon. There Jesus spoke in third person as He explained eight beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-10). But in the two verses that follow, Jesus switched from third to second person. He focused His thoughts directly at His disciples. They could expect to be insulted, persecuted, and generally bad-mouthed (Matt. 5:11-12). Those eventualities were not to deter them from the role He had for them. That role of salt and light is the subject of this week's lesson.
The responsibility of Christians to the world is set forth in three closely related pictures: "salt, light, and a city set on a hill." True Christians are not only saved but saving, not of themselves but as Christ lives in them. We are gracious because we have received God's grace.
Salt was a major food preservative as well as a seasoning. Apart from Christ we are corrupt and corrupting, but in Christ we are to be a saving factor in a perishing world. Pure salt cannot lose its saltiness. Jesus' audience's main source of salt was the Dead Sea. Its salt was an impure mixture. When exposed to weather, it often lost its "saltiness." Jesus may have intended to highlight the absurdity of "saltless salt."
Jesus is the true light. Sin darkens the world and our lives. Jesus declared His people to be "the light of the world." Jesus said His followers would shine in the darkness. He did not say "a city on a hill" should not be hidden but could not be hidden. A person does not light a lamp and put it under a "bushel" or "bowl." A lit lamp will provide light. Christians have the light of Christ. Apart from Christ we are unlighted lamps, but He lights our lamps to give light to all. Jesus commands us to let good works be seen and warns against proud self-seeking display. The Christian is commanded to live in open goodness and service before the world but is warned to do so only for the glory of God.
As a rule, I do not get into politics from the pulpit or in these lessons. However, there are situations that transcend any political party or agenda. Issues that are repugnant to our Christian sensibilities and push us to be the "salt of the earth." The detention of immigrants at the border, especially the children, is one of these issues. The United States of America is currently detaining thousands of children in horrific conditions. They are being held in glorified dog cages without access to proper restroom and bathing facilities. They are sitting in their own excrement. Children are not receiving regular hot meals.
Many of the children are under seven years old and are removed from their parents/guardians. I'm not getting into the immigration debate. This is about human decency and rights. I hear so many people (Christians and non-Christians) defend what we are doing. How can it be defended? Our country's history includes some sad times of human rights abuses, but also many measures we have taken to improve. Even with our mistakes in the past, I would have never thought we would put children in cages.
We as Christians are to be the salt and light in the world. Is this how salt and light look? I could not write this lesson without pointing out one of our biggest failures.
Grace and Peace,