Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Ability to Make a Difference

{Matthew 5:13-16; ESV}
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, 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 who is in heaven.

When Jesus taught He would take everyday examples that His listeners would understand. The elements of salt and light that Jesus used in this teaching are elements that were not only relevant to the original hears, but they are also relevant to us. We understand the influence both salt and light have in our lives.

Food is transformed when a little salt is added to it. Salt has this amazing ability, when used in the right amount, not only to add its distinctive flavor, but also to bring out the natural flavor of the food that we are eating. That is why many of us have a salt shaker on the table, because of its ability to enhance the flavor of our food.

Light, likewise, has the ability to transform. In our day and age we can take a room that is in complete darkness and fill it with light with the flip of a switch. What is truly amazing to me about light is how powerful even the smallest bit of light can be. The small flame of a candle can provide enough light to see by in a very dark room.

Jesus pulls these two examples out of life and tells us that we need to be like them. I believe what Jesus is telling us is that we are to make a difference in the part of the world in which we live. Take a moment and think about what that means. What does it mean to be salt and light?

The first thing that pops into my mind is that it means that we have a purpose. Our lives can make a difference! None of us are condemned to living a life that lacks the power to make a difference. God has blessed each of us with talents and resources we can use to bless the lives of other people. This thought should give each of us hope.

So if we have this ability to make a difference we need to consider another question: How do live as salt and light in the world?

We do this by following the example of salt and light. Salt has the power to transform food when it comes into contact with our food. Light has the power to transform a room when it is unleashed to shine. In other words the salt is useless if it stays in the shaker and the light is powerless if it is never turned out. This means the first step in making a difference in the world is engaging the world in real and meaningful ways.

The primary way we engage the world is through relationships. In relationships we are able to meet real people exactly where they are in life. We interact with them in the pains and in the joys, in their defeats and in their victories, and in their struggles and in their successes. Without this real life contact we will never be able to make a difference in the world.

If we are going to have influence in our relationships which leads to change we have to be compassionate. We can’t tell someone we care about them and then do nothing about the real problems they are experiencing in their lives. Consider what the apostle John wrote in 1 John 3:16-18; By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed (ESV). Unless our talk about love is backed up by the actions of love our talk is absolutely worthless. We may not be able to meet every need a person has, but there is also something that we can do to show people that we love them. Make sure you are asking God to open your eyes to the opportunities to love that are all around you.

I think another crucial part of influence is integrity. People not only have to know what we believe, but they also have to see it lived out in our lives. In other words our walk needs to match our talk. The apostle Peter has this to say about the issue of integrity: Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world (1 Peter 2:12; NLT). It might seem like we are not making much of a difference in this world, but when we live with integrity when the end comes, those who were able to observe our lives will be forced to honor God because our example left them without an excuse not to believe in Christ Jesus. Make sure you are asking God to give you wisdom and strength so you are able to live a life of integrity.

We may feel like we don’t have what it takes to make a difference in this big bad world of ours, but Jesus sees things differently. He sees us as the salt of the earth and the lights of the world, and He believes we are able to make a difference in the part of world we live. It is time to get out of the shaker, to flip the switch, and to start making a difference in our world.

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