This summer, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity of playing in the Cape Cod Baseball League. The team is made up of 28 of the top collegiate baseball players from around the country. When you first arrive, a few guys know each other, but the rest are complete strangers. It’s sort of cool, but scary at the same time. I spent the first few days getting to know their names and what college they’re from and other simple surface questions. I also did a lot of observing. I sat back and watched and listened to guys to get a feel for who they were and what they were about. And then it hit me. If I’m doing this, then there’s probably a really good chance someone else is observing me as well to see who I really am. That’s when a parade of thoughts went through my head, but the biggest question was, “Can these guys tell I’m a Christian or do I act and talk too much like a typical college kid? Am I too much like the world?” If we call ourselves Christians then we really do need to answer these questions because people observe us on a daily basis, whether you know it or not!
In the fall, the men’s bible study did a semester long study of the Sermon on the Mount and we covered this topic in one of the weeks. (By the way, if you haven’t really dug into the sermon, I recommend you do! It can be a life changer!) I remember throwing out this question in particular, “Are Christians so separate from the world that they can’t make a difference in the world? Or have Christians become so much like the world that they’re not different enough to make a difference?” In Matthew 5 verses 13-16, Jesus gives a very clear response to the question. “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
So of all the analogies to use, why does Jesus pick salt and light? Well, when does someone use salt? Typically when the food they are eating is a little bland. When is light helpful? When there’s darkness all around and you want to be able to see. So the basics of these two elements is that for them to be effective they have to be able to penetrate the environment that they’re in. That’s why Jesus picked these two perfect words to describe the life of Christians. Go back to the question before. Is the problem we’re so much like darkness and we’ve so much lost our saltiness that we no longer have an impact on the world, or is the problem that we’re so withdrawn from the world that the salt and light is not having the impact that it should have? The world needs light. The world needs salt. It doesn’t need a bunch of Christians crawling into their storm shelter and never coming out because it’s not safe. Nor do we need a bunch of Christians who look so much like the world that they can’t see the light. So if we are the salt and light, if that’s who we are then it’s time we start to look like that.
Now go back and read the passage by yourself and think about being embedded. When we embed ourselves in the world, when we invest in the world, when we become deeply enmeshed in our culture, then and only then can we become salt and light in the world. Many Christians think that the only way they can maintain their Christianity is to withdraw from the world, but that’s not how salt and light work. It moves in not away. We are followers of Jesus, not just for ourselves, but for the sake of the world, and this passage is a call to Christians to live for the sake of the world. To be an example. To love. To forgive. To be even-tempered. To control our language. To walk like Christ so that when the world sees you, they see Him!
Are we different enough from the world to make a difference in the world? Is our light on a lamp stand? Are we so enmeshed and embedded in the world that the world actually has a chance to be influenced by the lives that we live? Jesus says, you are salt and light. That’s who we are. We are the people who transform the world by your very presence!