Salt and Light in Today's America

'You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It's no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men. You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.'
Matt. 5: 13-16

I recently re-read those verses, and I felt (as always) greatly challenged, and deeply inspired. But this time, I also felt perplexed. I've gotten out in the world a lot more. I've met a lot of non-Christians. They're not big bad wolves. They're generally pretty decent people. I've discovered that a lot of them are, in fact, extremely nice people. Sometimes, they're even kinder, more patient, and more generous than I am.

How am I supposed to be salt and light to these people? On casual acquaintance, I don't look any different from them. How can I avoid being regarded as just another 'nice person'? What will it take for them to see a real difference in me?

Do you ever feel yourself becoming engaged in a battle of good works? 'My non-believing neighbor is very generous, so I have to be even more generous. My non-Christian co-worker is very patient, so I have to be even more patient.' I think we Christians can spend such vast amounts of time and energy trying to be better than the non-Christians that we lose sight of our higher calling. We are not called to be nice. We are called to be holy. Holiness will result in kindness, generosity, etc., but kindness and generosity will never result in holiness.

I don't want people to look at me and see a 'nice girl'. I want them to look at me and see the power, the holiness, the love, of God. I want to live in such a way that even the nice non-believers know there's something different happening in my life. I want my actions to give glory to God as the source of holiness, instead of to myself as the source of 'niceness'. I shouldn't have to walk around with 'every good thing you see in me is because of Jesus Christ' plastered on my t-shirt. The world should just know, simply by being in my presence, seeing me go about my business, that there is a greater Power at work in my life. That is not to say that everyone is going to accurately identify the source of that Power. In Acts 14, the people of Lystra saw God's power at work through Paul and Barnabas, and tried to worship the two missionaries as deities. Dismayed, Paul and Barnabas tore their robes, rushed into the crowd, and 'barely stopped the crowds from sacrificing to them' by telling them about God! The people of Lystra may have been misdirected, but at least they weren't dismissing Paul and Barnabas as just 'a couple of nice guys'. No! They saw a superhuman power that transcended mere niceness and they responded to it, thereby giving Paul and Barnabas a golden opportunity to spread the gospel.

If I find myself permanently relegated to the status of 'just another nice person', is it a sign that somewhere, something in my life is very much askew? Quite possibly!

When the world sees God's power manifested through His people, they are given an opportunity. A choice to either accept or reject the Power Source. Are we, the Christians of America, even giving people the opportunity to make this choice?

What does salt and light look like in today's America?

And WHAT is the final answer to all these questions?

Kindness, generosity, love, patience, are all part of the answer, but they are not the answer. Ultimately, of course, Jesus is the only answer. It is only through the Spirit's power that we are ever able to be an effective witness.

But how do I live out this witness? What does it look like? What is the Spirit trying to do through me?

I felt an intense urging to figure this out. So I started praying. "God, what does it take to be salt and light? How can I line up with Your plan to work in America? What is the answer? What is the answer? What is the answer?"

The answer, when it came, was simple. "Do the impossible."

Do the impossible! Of course! That's what happened when God worked through Paul to heal the lame man in Lystra. Doing the impossible goes beyond 'nice'. It is holy. It surpasses the range of human knowledge and power. It forces people to make a choice. It challenges skepticism, arouses curiosity, shatters barriers...changes the world.

Do the impossible.

I am still in the process of discovering how God wants to work the impossible through me. But I know He can do it. I know He will do it. I know that His light in me will grow stronger and stronger so that the world will see His good works through me, and learn to glorify Him. He will increase, I will decrease, and the world will be changed.