Impacting Culture

13“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

How do we make an impact in this community? In this nation? If you are like me, sometimes after watching the news or reading the paper, you can become overwhelmed. There is so much need in this world and so many temptations. It seems like our culture is headed downhill fast and we are powerless to stop it.

So what’s the solution? Greater political power? More money? Bigger publicity? Aggressive activism? It is easy to head down those paths. But they are not to be our primary focus.

As Jesus spoke this Sermon on the Mount, He was not speaking into a cultural vacuum. They had the same questions and struggles that we have today. They looked around at the Greco-Roman influence permeating the land of Israel. Temples to pagan gods. Immoral bathhouses. Sexual promiscuity. The lure of Roman pleasure, power and materialism. That’s why they were eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and get rid of the “evil Romans” and re-establish Jewishness and morality into the land. They were more patriotic than we are in that regard. They were the nation of Israel, the chosen people, God’s special treasure. How could they be under the thumb of pagan Rome?

But Jesus’ pathway is different. His kingdom operates under different principles. Jesus did not come to join any political party or religious organization but to teach His people how to live differently in the world, to be citizens of His kingdom first and foremost.

So the Beatitudes are not just nice moral values to add to our virtue list. They are a call to a radical re-ordering of the way we think and live. We begin by recognizing our absolute need and dependence on God–being poor in spirit, mourning over sin, being submissive, hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Then these heart attitudes progressively begin to transform the way we live–becoming merciful to others, living in integrity and purity, acting as ministers of reconciliation in the world, and willing to suffer if necessary for our faith.

That kind of life reflects the King and impacts the world…one life at a time.

It is slower than we like. It took the early church 200-300 years to radically transform the Roman empire. But though it is slower, it is more real, more effective, and more lasting. A small group of people with little resources, no military power, no political representation, and no fear of death eventually conquered the largest empire on the earth. Wow.

So when Jesus says, you are the salt of the earth and you are the light of the world, His point is that being a kingdom citizen and becoming more and more like our King makes a powerful impact on this world.

Salt preserves. It hinders the process of decay and corruption. By reflecting the character of Christ, we act as preservatives in our culture.

Light shines. It attracts people’s attention and points them to the greater Light of Christ. By living out our faith and showing compassion, we “adorn” the doctrine of God and encourage people to yield their lives to Him.

Godly character and good works open the door for the good news of Jesus Christ. And that begins to change a culture from the inside out.

What makes us ineffective as believers is when we “lose our saltiness” and/or “hide our light.” In other words, either we become so identified with the world that no one can see a difference in the way we live or we become so separate and isolated from the world that no one can see us at all. We must be in the world but not of the world. A delicate balance. And only achieved by daily dependence on the Spirit of God.

The spiritual beggar, broken over his sin, yielded to God, hungering for Him, merciful to others, living in integrity, pursuing peace, and willing to suffer overcomes the world.

Lord, transform my heart, fill me with Your Spirit, shine Your light through me, and help me to live like a citizen of Your kingdom today.

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