Over the past couple of weeks, I have been laid low by bronchitis – it is something I get on a rare occasion when I have been working hard and then come in contact with someone who has it or has a bad cold. But it has been a period when I have had to stop and listen again to what it is that God might be saying to me on a number of levels. As I read and re-read the introduction to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew (Matthew 5.1-20) there are a number of things that stand out to me, not the least of which is the call of Christ upon his followers to come and be more than we currently are.
The community and consequently every follower of the Lord Jesus is called to be salt of the earth and light of the world. Salt is meant to be pure. Salt is salt all the way through and does not change its nature. If it does it becomes useless and only good to be thrown away. Salt is a preservative, to keep things in good order and give it constancy. Salt is also to bring out the flavour of the life that is being lived so that it makes the life of the kingdom attractive to those who do not yet belong.
The Church is also meant to be a city on a hill – or in this case, a church on a hill in the city. Light is meant to be seen. It is used to guide people’s way in the darkness. Light is also meant to be a warning for those who can see it. People should be able to compare their life with the life they are seeing in those who are living into the kingdom and see that there is more and that this more is available to them if they would only take it on.
We need to remember why Jesus came: he came for us. He came to deliver God’s people. He did not come to make people nice but to sacrifice to make them holy. Jesus came not to teach us to be tolerant but to train us in how to genuinely love one another through giving and self-sacrifice. He preached a message of repentance and the recognition that God has come to his creation and desires to have a relationship with each and with all of us. He does not come to include us in God’s plan but to deliver us from sin, evil and death.
Jesus came that we would have more than knowledge and enlightenment. He came that we might be illumined by God the Holy Spirit that we would know and love God deeply and learn to seek him in others that we would serve him in them. There are many in the Church who want others to be “included” and to be so on their terms. There is a difficulty in this: to be included means that you are made less and need an upgrade. Inclusion does not make for equality. Only repentance and illumination can do that for those who are called to be within the Church. All of us were called to the community of the Church and some of us were chosen by God and the Church to lead with the community. But it all starts in the same place, the same way and grows from there. We start at the foot of the cross and walk on with Christ, following where he might lead.
Christ calls us to reflect the kingdom and its values of salt and light. We are expected draw the kingdom into this city and our society, not the other way around. The longer the Church waits to begin to live the life it is called to, the more the local Church drifts away from God to accommodate the culture in which it finds itself trying to exist. Drawing in the kingdom means that we live out the life that God calls us to, know that we cannot do it alone – that we are going to need the aid of the Spirit to make this happen. We are not called to build the old Christendom but rather to see the lives of the people in our community transformed and allow the structures to be reshaped and reformed by transformed people.
We are a church on a hill for the whole city to see and yet they do not know our name or what kind of church we are. What can people see in us that would attract people to us? What of the kingdom life do people see and want for themselves? Keep this in mind: I would rather be known for what I am and be alone, then be known for what I am not and be lonely. Follow where Christ may lead for he is calling you.