Matthew 5:13-16 (Common English Version)
Salt and light
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. 14 You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.
Thoughts on the passage:
If salt has lost its saltiness it must be tossed out. If you have a light you do not hide it. A city on a hill is meant to be seen. Each of these statements that Jesus makes point to a clear message, the Christian faith is not meant to be mild but to be bold. The message of Christ is not business as usual. The message of Christ is a clear call to action for all who wish to follow God.
Choosing bold over mild is not something new to our society. We are doing it with our coffee, we are doing it with our food choices, and we are even doing it with our politicians (on both sides of the aisle). We are calling for more and not settling for good enough in almost every area of our life. Unfortunately one area we have settled for mild is the church. United Methodists especially have been choosing a mild mannered faith for too long.
John Wesley once obsevered in his writings,
“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”
When we look at the church today I worry that we are like the salt that has lost its saltiness, we are like Wesley’s church that has the form of the religion but not the power. Our choice of mild instead of bold has cost us much when it comes to our mission to make disciples and transform the world. That is not a mild mission, it is a bold one.
Jesus was bold in his proclamations as well. Over and over he challenged people to live bold lives of faith. He used images of Hell, descriptions of chopping off limbs, and a call to action that transcended even loyalty to family. He wanted our faith to be the most important thing in our lives. Is it?
If you are like me then mild is a lot more comfortable than bold. Mild is good at making friends and it is good at making people happy. Mild keeps us from standing out, from getting picked on, or from getting too much attention. Mild is often built into our cultural DNA. Just because it is who we are does not mean it is who God wants us to be.
Bold does not have just mean boisterous. Bold does not mean extroverted. Bold does not mean attention seeking. Bold is authentic. Bold is passionate. Bold is a light that cannot be hid, it is salt that transforms the food around it, it is an example to others. Bold requires faith.
We are asked to be bold because we are asked to trust not in ourselves but in God. We stand out believing that God is with us and that through us the Spirit might be at work in the world. Bold is believing the lame can walk, the blind can see, and that even sinners like you and me can be redeemed.
Being bold is not about us it is about God and doing God’s work. God wants us to be bold in our faith so that others might come to faith through us. God wants us to be bold in our faith so that the world can be transformed. It is not a call to stand out so that we get the attention and praise. Instead it is a call to be bold so that through us others might come to know God.
What does being bold mean for our church? It does not mean we have to make changes all the time, sometimes it just means be clear about what we are doing and why. Several years ago we started hosting community meals. At the time the congregation was challenge to be bold, that if we were going to talk about feeding the world we needed to do something. Our actions caused other churches to follow suit. We were salt and light to the community. We were bold.
The boldness of Christ’s message has been transformational in my life. It is a message that says that even someone like me can be loved for who I am not what I do. It says that love is so powerful that it can overcome all other forces in this world; money, violence, political might, even death itself cannot overcome God’s love. That same boldness calls me into a life of radical love and hospitality, of welcoming others, of breaking bread with strangers, and treating everyone as God as treated me.
How are we being called to be bold today? I do not believe we are salt that has lost its saltiness but I do believe we tend to hide our light. We cannot simply sit back on what we have done. We cannot just wait for people to discover what we can do for them. Instead we need to be bold, to go forth into the world and share the light of Christ and the love of God with others.
Questions to Ponder:
What does a bold faith look like to you?
When is a time you have chosen the safety of mild over the risks of being bold?
Who is someone you know who lives life boldly?
What can our church do to choose bold over mild?
Prayer: God you have blessed us but you also challenge us. Help us to remember that as followers of you, we are called to be salt and light for the world. Give us the courage to live our faith boldly, to proclaim your love to the world, and to let your grace shine for