Saturday, 19 March 2016

Salt, Light, and the Itch for Publicity

Recently a friend found an old tattered book in a used bookstore whose title intrigued him. It was called, The Christ of the Mount: A Working Philosophy of Life by E. Stanley Jones, copyright 1931, The Abingdon Press. Amazon says it’s currently unavailable, but like my friend, you may still find a used copy somewhere.

Eli Stanley Jones was an American Methodist missionary who, according to Wikipedia was the Billy Graham to India. He died in India in January of 1973.

After my friend was done with this book, he loaned it to me to enjoy as well. There were several sections that caught my attention, including this discussion on salt and light based upon Matthew 5: 13-16. Here’s his take on that portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:
The action of salt is silent, pervasive, hidden, unseen; the action of light is open and manifest – the most openly manifest thing imaginable. The influence of Christian character is to be twofold, a silent, hidden and pervasive thing reaching into the very fiber of men’s thought and outlook; and it is to be open, lighting the outer life of men and their affairs. But it is to be inward and pervasive before it is to be outward – we are to be salt before we can be light. No man can shine in obviousness unless he is willing to permeate in obscurity. Many of us would like to be light, but we are unwilling to work like salt, unseen, unnoticed, unapplauded. … We have no real passion to change things where change really matters, namely, within. The Christianity of the present day is hurt by a desire to be light coupled with an unwillingness to be salt. It is suffering from an outwardism that is more interested in statistics than in states of heart and mind.
So what is your take on that? Are we guilty of being unwilling to work like salt? Are we only interested in the applause of light? While I try not to dwell upon institutional church faux-pas like I once did, I confess that all I could think about is the showmanship of many modern church services. I know that’s an unfair caricature; not all churches are like that. Still I’ve long since argued that Hollywood has invaded the church service, such as in this post from January 2008.

Maybe that’s why Paul cautioned Timothy to not be too quick of laying on the hands (1 Timothy 5:22); maybe he too thought it important to make sure that there was salt before focusing on the light. It all reminds me of the story of the pastor who had served in a church for many years before he himself actually came to know the Lord and be saved. How ironic to think that he may have been converted by his own preaching. Was he “light” before first being “salt?” Hmm, in my way of thinking, and perhaps Jones’ as well, it begs the question.

Is the church today “suffering from an outwardism that is more interested in statistics than in states of heart and mind?” Perhaps the cartoon is truer than we care to admit; “The ministers’ gathering was going well until the question came up, ‘How’s your church doing?’” Perhaps we are more focused on being light than first being salt. Perhaps we’ve put the proverbial cart before the horse. Perhaps too many of us still suffer from Pinocchio-itis. Perhaps the real issue here is the demon Pride. Something to think about. Peace.

Cartoon Source: Unknown

1 comment:

  1. I agree to a point but they really go together Salt and Light. I agree that light has to come from a reality that is inward before it can be expressed outwardly. However, I believe too many people are shy to express the truth they know that is within. They may know that Jesus has forgiven them but they can't seem to forgive themselves and so they feel unworthy to share the gospel. We have to really come to terms with how free we really are when we believe in Christ.