Why We Exist
Being salt and light, rich in good works
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 by men. 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 men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matt 5:13-16).
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible (Eph 5:8-14a).
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life (Phil 2:14-16a).
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. (1 Pet 2:11-15).
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10).
Hating evil, loving good, and pursuing justice
Wash and make yourselves clean Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow (Isa 1:16-17). Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph. . . . I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! (Amos 5:14-15, 21-24) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled... Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . . . . . seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matt 5:6, 10; 6:33). To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech (Prov 8:13). Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people (Prov 14:34). But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always (Hos 12:6). This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.” (Zech 7:9-10) But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin (Mic 3:8). Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you (Deut 16:10). Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this (Deut 24:17-18). Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done? (Prov 24:11-12)
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (Jam 1:27).
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former (Matt 23:23).
The words of Jesus:
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matt 4:17)
It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31b-32).
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:1-5)
...there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. . . . there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7, 10).
This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things (Luke 24:46-48)
But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned (John 16:7-11).
The words of Peter:
Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call (Acts 2:38-29).
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you--even Jesus (Acts 3:19-20).
God exalted [Jesus] to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him (Acts 5:31-32).
The words of Paul:
In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).
I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus (Acts 20:21).
First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds (Acts 26:20).
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death (2 Cor 7:10).
Overcoming evil with good
You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:43-48).
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:18-21).
Speaking the truth in love
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (Col 4:6).
And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will (2 Tim 2:24-26).
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction (2 Tim 3:16-4:2).
Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt (Lev 19:17).
Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses (Prov 27:5-6).
He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue (Prov 28:23).
Quotes from Christian Leaders
[Commenting on Matt 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth”] The point is that, if Jesus’ disciples are to act as a preservative in the world by conforming to kingdom norms, if they are “called to be a moral disinfectant in a world where moral standards are low, constantly changing, or non-existent ... they can discharge this function only if they themselves retain their virtue” (D. A. Carson, quoting R. V. Tasker).
[Commenting on Matt 5:14-15, “You are the light of the world”] Light is a universal religious symbol. In the OT as in the NT, it most frequently symbolizes purity as opposed to filth, truth or knowledge as opposed to error or ignorance, and divine revelation and presence as opposed to reprobation and abandonment by God. . . . A lamp is put on a lampstand to illuminate all. (D. A. Carson)
[Commenting on Matt 5:16, “...let your light shine before men...”] Jesus drives the metaphor home. What his disciples must show is their “good works,” i.e., all righteousness, everything they are and do that reflects the mind and will of God. And men must see this light. It may provoke persecution (vv. 10-12), but that is no reason for hiding the light others may see and by which they may come to glorify the Father--the disciples’ only motive (cf. 2Cor 4:6; 1 Peter 2:12). Witness includes not just words but deeds; as Stier remarks, “The good word with out the good walk is of no avail.”
Thus the kingdom norms (vv. 3-12) so work out in the lives of the kingdom’s heirs as to produce the kingdom witness (vv. 13-16). If salt (v. 13) exercises the negative function of delaying decay and warns disciples of the danger of compromise and conformity to the world, then light (vv. 14-16) speaks positively of illuminating a sin-darkened world and warns against a withdrawal from the world that does not lead others to glorify the Father in heaven. “Flight into the invisible is a denial of the call. A community of Jesus which seeks to hide itself has ceased to follow him” (D. A. Carson, quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer).
As the lights of the world, [the disciples] are illustrious and conspicuous, and have many eyes upon them. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. The disciples of Christ, especially those who are forward and zealous in his service, become remarkable, and are taken notice of as beacons. They are for signs (Isa. 7:18), men wondered at (Zec. 3:8); all their neighbours have any eye upon them. Some admire them, commend them, rejoice in them, and study to imitate them; others envy them, hate them, censure them, and study to blast them. They are concerned therefore to walk circumspectly, because of their observers; they are as spectacles to the world, and must take heed of every thing that looks ill, because they are so much looked at. The disciples of Christ were obscure men before he called them, but the character he put upon them dignified them, and as preachers of the gospel they made a figure; and though they were reproached for it by some, they were respected for it by others, advanced to thrones, and may judges (Lu. 22:30); for Christ will honour those that honour him...
They must shine as lights, [1.] By their good preaching. The knowledge they have, they must communicate for the good of others; not put it under a bushel, but spread it. The talent must not be buried in a napkin, but traded with. The disciples of Christ must not muffle themselves up in privacy and obscurity, under pretence of contemplation, modesty, or self-preservation, but, as they have received the gift, must minister the same, Lu. 12:3. [2.] By their good living. They must be burning and shining lights (Jn. 5:35); must evidence, in their whole conversation, that they are indeed followers of Christ, James 3:13. They must be to others for instruction, direction, quickening, and comfort, Job 29:11...
Note, The holy, regular, and exemplary [lifestyle] of the saints, may do much towards the conversion of sinners; those who are unacquainted with religion, may hereby be brought to know what it is. Examples teach. And those who are prejudiced against it, may hereby by brought in love with it, and thus there is a winning virtue in a godly [lifestyle] (Matthew Henry).
I believe we have come to a place where the thinking of [Christians] must change, and it must change now or the church will become a little cult in the corner. I am not interested in following a religion that does not impact the world in which we live. . . . Jesus was a rebel, and He has called us to join this rebel movement, and change the world together.
Nevers Mumba, Zambian Christian leader
As we turn to the evangelical leadership of this country in the last decades, unhappily, we must come to the conclusion that often it has not been much help. It has shown the mark of a platonic, overly spiritualized Christianity all too often. Spirituality to the evangelical leadership often has not included the Lordship of Christ over the whole spectrum of life. Spirituality has often been shut up to a very narrow area. And also very often, among many evangelicals, including many evangelical leaders, it seems that the final end is to protect their own projects. . . . I am again asking the question, why have we let ourselves go so far down the road?
Francis Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto
We Christians have given Calvary to the Communists. They accept deprivation and death to spread their gospel, while we Christians reject any gospel that does not major on healing and happiness.
George E. Failing
If a so-called religious belief is not radical, we must suspect that it is mere superstition. The profession of a religious belief is a lie if it does not significantly determine one’s economic, political and social behaviour.
M. Scott Peck, The Different Drum
...our expectation of [God’s] kingdom cannot be a passive waiting, a sweet, soft occupation with ourselves and our likeminded friends. No; if we truly expect God’s kingdom we will be filled with divine power. Then the social justice of the future – with its purity of heart and divine fellowship – will be realized now, wherever Jesus himself is present. Our belief in the future must bring change to the present!
Eberhard Arnold, God’s Revolution
The kingdom of God is a new order founded on the fatherly love of God, on redemption, justice, and fellowship. It is meant to enter into all life, all nations, and all policies till the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of the Lord.
Eric Liddell, Olympic gold medal winner and missionary to China
A holy life is a voice; it speaks when the tongue is silent and is either a constant attraction or a perpetual reproof.
Archbishop Robert Leighton
A Christian who . . . becomes a revolutionary will serve as a revolutionary catalyst in the Church; and by the multiplication of revolutionized Christians, the Church will become a revolutionary catalyst in society; and if society is sufficiently revolutionized, a revolution of violence will no more be needed than a windmill in a world of atomic energy.
Vernon C. Grounds, Revolution and the Christian Faith
It is true that Jesus never called for a political, revolutionary transformation of Jewish society. Yet the repentance which he demanded as a consequence of his preaching of the reign of God sought to ignite within the people of God a movement in comparison to which the normal type of revolution is insignificant.
Gerhard Lohfink, Jesus and Community
Our expectation of the future must mean certainty that the divine will conquer the demonic, that love will conquer hate, that the all-embracing will conquer the isolated. And certainty tolerates no limitation. God embraces everything. When we trust in him for the future, we trust for the present. When we have the innermost faith in him, this faith will prove valid for all areas of life.
Eberhard Arnold, God’s Revolution
Throughout the Montgomery [Alabama] campaign, critics complained about the ordained clergy’s involvement in “earthly, temporal matters.” [Dr. Martin Luther] King, [Jr.] however, believed “this view of religion … was too confined.” He saw his civil rights activity as an extension of his ministry: “The Christian gospel is a two-way road. On the one hand, it seeks to change the souls of men, and thereby unite them with God; on the other hand, it seeks to change the environmental conditions of men so the soul will have a chance after it is changed.”
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
Along with many African-American theologians, I believe in the tremendous importance of preserving religious communities not only as centers of difference—that is, places where one grasps the meaning of the world as different from what you find in the dominant culture—but even more so as centers of resistance. These centers of resistance do not simply proclaim “We don’t believe what the rest of you believe,” but say, “We are willing and ready to sacrifice, to lose something material for the sake of that difference in which we believe.”
Indeed, radical transformation will demand a sacrifice. But a fundamental demand for sacrifice will not arise in politics. It will have to arise from the church, which is really the only contemporary, genuine source of resistance to the existing order. Nobody else can do it. Nobody was ever persuaded to go out and risk life and limb be cause of reading a smart article on philosophy and public affairs. No people ever said they were going to organize a march and be beaten by the police because of something they read in The New York Times op-ed page. It is only religion that still has the power, at its best, to encourage sacrifice and resistance.
Yet, one should have no illusions. All too many pastors today, black and white, are so worried about filling the seats. Clergy deliver brilliant sermons that preach up to the edge of asking people to do something, and then they will pull back. Some pastors display prophetic leadership and call for sacrifice, but their numbers are small...
Prof. Stephen Carter
When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.