Nov. 29, 2013 Civility in Xian Scripture
Matthew 5:13-16, “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 city 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.”
We began this month of exploring Christian scripture to understand civility with Jesus, and we’ll end with Jesus. This is a very familiar passage to most anyone who grew up in church. Jesus loved to teach in symbols, and this is some of his best… it’s simple, we can relate to the content, and it inspires. We are called to be salt, seasoning the world for the better. We are to be light, a source of illumination and joy for those struggling to see. Amen and amen.
Jesus lays it all on the line for us in these simple words: we are salt, and we are light. No matter what you’re cooking, the salt becomes part of the dish, lost for any other purpose other than favoring and then never being seen again. Oh, it’s flavor is there, we know where the salt has gone… but that’s just it, the salt is gone. The dish remains. The dish is so much better for having been salted.
No matter the light source you choose, it burns up, it gives all it has and it’s gone. A lamp burns away it’s oil. A candle melts. A bulb eventually burns away it’s filament or it’s gases, batteries go dead… all lights on this earth end in their using. This is our calling. We are used up in service to this world. We are sent to make the world better for everyone else, and Jesus evens asks what we’re good for if we reject that calling! If we will not salt and we will not light, then what use do we have?
The word civil at the base of the word civility is a very fun study if you ever feel like digging in and chewing on it a while. It denotes both the meaning of responsible/polite behavior, but it also denotes this aspect of being a common member of society, a citizen. The two concepts are united in the word, both being a citizen and acting a citizen. Jesus does this with salt and light, both being and doing. Salt is our identity and our action. Light is both what we are and what we do. Our place in the world hinges on this calling… we exist in this capacity of purpose.
So what does all that mean? It means that I don’t salt the earth one day a week, or two days a week, or only when I choose to be salty. I must reflect on the needs around me and strive to be salt all the time. I must own the call to saltiness and pursue it with all my heart, mind and soul. It’s not just a thing I do on weekends or when there’s a Bible study. It’s in my walk, my talk, my laughter, my weeping, my falling, my failing, my dancing and my singing.
My light doesn’t have a on/off switch for my convenience. I am not choosing to be light for only those I have deemed worthy of the time or the effort. I am shining, shining on my worst day, my best day, in the rain, in the snow, in the pain and in the green of springtime joys. I am being what I am called to be, to the best of my ability and with all the joy of the call I can muster on any given day. And if we have come together to make a community like the one Jesus has described in the verses preceding this passage, in those amazing words we call “The Beatitudes,” then when my savor lessens and my light dims, it will be renewed in my kingdom fellowship with you. Together, we are called to be salt and light, never alone. Never alone.
I am salt with you. I am not salting the earth alone! I am light with you. I am not lighting anything by myself! Civil is not something I am or do alone. Civil exists within the community of the citizens! If we are to find a singular truth of civility in the teaching of scriptures then let it be the truth of our need for one another! I need you! I need you to myself be salt. I need you to myself be light. I need you, and that is why I am striving to be civil, to keep us in the bonds of love, mutual encouragement, sharing and growth.
Never alone. Thank you, God, I am not alone.