You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16, NRSV).
Clearly, as Christians we are to make a difference in the world. The Christian life was never meant to be about cloistering as a subculture. We are to go into our culture and make a difference.
In biblical times salt was used, among other things, to preserve food. If it was no longer salty, it was of no use. As followers of Jesus, we are to be a preserving factor in the world; in a way, we are here to keep humanity from getting rotten! Salt does no good if it is not sprinkled on what it is mean to preserve. If we remove ourselves from our culture, we cannot keep the world from rotting away.
Unfortunately, we have not effectively penetrated the systems of this world–business, political, social, and educational–to make a difference. If we see evil happening around us, we are partly to blame.
Christians were instrumental in abolishing slavery. They moved into the world, faced it head-on despite opposition, and things changed. As salt, they were able to take a giant step toward ridding the world of the evil of slavery. While slavery still occurs in many nations, most cultures today look upon it with abhorrence.
Likewise, as light, people are to see the good works we do and be drawn to our heavenly Father. Again, it is unfortunate that most people see our buildings, not our good works. Is there a problem with homelessness and poverty partly because the body of Christ has failed to do good?
Evil exists, not only as isolated acts, but also as part of a system. When we fail as Christians to be part of change within these existing systems, we have by our inaction contributed to the presence of evil on this earth.
Recently I was talking with a friend about the issue of divorce within the church. Our talk had come out of some research I had been doing for this book and the statistics I had uncovered about the growth in blended and common-law families. At one point in the discussion my friend said, “I know divorce is not God’s plan and it can destroy people’s lives. However, I have heard so many sermons over the years about family breakdown, but not one sermon about the devastation caused by sexual abuse. Some of the people would have been better off if their parents had divorced when they were kids because their father was sexually abusing them. Other people I know are divorced because they could no longer tolerate the abuse, nor allow their children to live under it. Why does the church not talk about this evil?”
I had to agree with her. Sexual abuse, which includes incest and pornography, continues in our society. While in recent months I have seen some Christian organizations step up to challenge current lax child pornography laws, I still fail to see the church take an active role in exposing the evil of sexual abuse and bringing healing to its victims. We are failing to be salt and light in our world and, in doing that, we are silent partners to evil.