Being Salt and Light
by Pastor Greg Hoffmann
“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 town built 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.” –Matthew 5:13-16
Religion is defined as “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe…usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.” We see in our world today that it is quite possible for one to hold a set of religious beliefs without one’s behavior being changed. Yet it is also true that each religion has a unique worldview that affects how a community or society functions—this we also see in our world.
Christianity can be defined as a religion, but it is much more. The Christian faith is not merely a “set of beliefs” that somehow identify us as Christians. At its core, the Christian faith is about a relationship with the Living God through Jesus Christ. Religion tends to be a fear-based, impersonal, and formal view of life, often understood as adhering to a set of dogmas. Relationship, based upon Jesus’ love, is personal, engaging, and life-changing. Religion can be kept to oneself; relationship is to be lived out publicly. It took me a number of years to understand this distinction.
I was raised in the home of a Lutheran pastor and grew up hearing the message of the Gospel from the time I can remember. Almost without exception, family devotions were a part of morning and evening meals, with devotions at dinner often ending with the singing of hymns in 4-part harmony. I knew the doctrine, the catechism, had memorized Scripture, loved the hymns and had heard the message of salvation. Even though I was baptized into the Christian faith as a child, I was in high school before I understood the personal relationship behind the doctrine. It was then that I came to realize the personal relationship of faith in Jesus and came to understand that this Jesus had called me and made me His own in baptism many years before. Jesus became more than a theological concept; I trusted Him as a personal Savior and Lord.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us the effect of this relationship—He speaks of being salt and light in the world. Religion can give society a framework for life, but it is relationship that brings light where there is darkness; it is salt that flavors and preserves society. The Bible does speak of religion a few times. The New Testament references to religion primarily speak of Jesus’ love changing our life and our call to then live out Christ’s love to those in need.
“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 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.” –James 1:26-27
Our world knows of religion and conflicts that result, but what we really need to know is the power of a relationship with Jesus Christ to redeem a person’s life and bring reconciliation. To pray for the Pillar/Mountain of Religion is to pray for the Church, not only PLC or those in our community, but our nation and around the world. Pray that the unity of the Spirit would abound in the Church, for clear preaching of the Gospel and people to enter into a relationship with the Living God. Pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to bring about a renewal in the Church today. Come, Holy Spirit, and make us salt and light in the world!