Matthew 5:13"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 by men.
14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither 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. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
I remember when I first met a young Muslim nearly two and a half years ago. In the process of learning about Islam from him, we'd discuss Islamic nations, Muslims and their goal to be ruled according to shariah law. Sounds ideal to be governed by people who believe the same as you, right? Only the problem gets to be ack! all these people don't believe the same way! How do millions and millions of people have the same beliefs and interpretations? Simply - or not so simply! - they don't. There are ultra-conservative interpretations along with very progressive ones and lots and lots in the middle. So the problem gets to be: whose interpretation will rule us? Samer told me when his brother was in London and went to shake hands with the men beside him after the service in the mosque that a few refused saying it was bida'a or innovation. They didn't do this greeting during the time of the prophet therefore it was not something they wanted to do. Goodness, people, it's just simply greeting your neighbor....must there be a rule to govern this?
I digress. You probably wonder what this talk of shariah has to do with Jesus' teaching on salt and light.
Well, it's this. I was asked wouldn't I like to live in a nation that was made up of only Christians -- people like me running the place and enjoying life governed by the laws of Jesus. Well, I suppose a place like that would be OK if people truly followed Jesus, but in reality we are never called upon to build an earthly kingdom. The mixing of "Christianity" into the state has happened with horrible results. God never told us to build Christian nations and rule people and make them righteous through the sword. God knows only HE can change people's hearts and lives -- not some Christian armed forces or Christian police force. Do we really want a Christian version of Saudi Arabia's religious police?
Besides -- and this is where it goes back to Jesus' teaching -- how do we be salt and light to the world if we all inhabit one little corner of the globe? If we're all holed up in the Christian State of Nebraska or Carolina Christian Community or the United Christian Emirates, how do we show people the difference Jesus can make in our lives? How do people see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven if we are only in our Christian community separated from the rest of the world's inhabitants? And since I don't believe people are born Christian, what do we do about family members who haven't made a decision to follow Jesus and live according to His teachings? Do they live apart from us until they make this choice?
The challenge is being in the world, but not of the world. We need to interact with people so they will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. At the same time we are not supposed to "lose our saltiness." That is, we are not to become so like the world that there is no Christ-like difference.
I fear too many of us have either become deserving of the trash pile or hidden our lights. We've either become too much like the world that there is no godly difference or we've tried to hide anything to do with God for fear of being labeled intolerant or to avoid rejection or unpleasant differences.
One last thing. Notice Jesus mentions our good works in connection with others praising God. The glory shouldn't be for you, but for God. Afterall He is the one who works through us to produce God-honoring good works.