Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Distinctive and also down to earth
If you visit Tuscany and buy bread, make sure you ask for bread WITH salt. The local Pane di Prato bread is made without salt and it is… well, I have a recipe but I am really not drawn to making Tuscan bread! (To be fair, the deli cooked meats there are much more salty than ours, so it goes together better than you might think.)
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, now can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
HOW salty are you? Do you have that sharpness, that distinctive savour that goes with knowing Jesus? Or is that ‘edge’ being dulled?
‘Dull’ is exactly what happens if we don’t keep burning brightly – like a log taken out of the fire which quickly cools and smoulders. That’s why we need to read the word, gather round the word and worship through the word. This is the process God uses to make Himself known in fresh ways to us, His children. Or to put it another way, it is the number one way we hear Him. That keeps us ‘salty’ and in the “readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” Ephesians 6:15).
Jesus spoke about this in the context of the hostility and even persecution, which for us, goes with the territory.
I imagine that policemen and postmen talks about their beats and rounds in terms of the easy roads with easy access, and the difficult ones with big gates and big dogs. There are places for us which are more welcoming, or more challenging — and our call is to the challenging ones. The more difficult places and people get us responding in one of two ways. Either we rise to it and become more salty – more definite about who we are, who we follow, and our values – or we do the opposite, heads down and trying to blend in.
I know a community which has seen a real measure of transformation through Christians who live there showing themselves to be humbly different, not in religious ways but by being real. I would single out these words as keys:
- being consistent
- being kind
- being non-judgmental
This was a mainly blue-collar community that used to be hostile to anything to do with ‘church’ which they saw as wanting their money and demanding their involvement. Over a period of ten or fifteen years, they encountered a lot of people who put on events for them, didn’t ask for money ever and who were there the next month, the next year and at the next point of need. The people they would look to at those difficult times such as illness or bereavement or getting rid of the drug traffickers were consistently approachable, and lived in the same streets. The salt and light of ordinary but prayerful and caring Christians has changed the spiritual atmosphere – it’s just a better place to live.
We may want revival to break out with churches needing to build extensions, but the way it works is first things first – us ordinary, unpretentious Christians getting out among people and being approachable, decent, and generous. That’s distinctive and ‘salty’.
It also begins to earn us the right to be listened to, as people who have shown themselves to be those whose words and actions are actually saying the same thing. That’s about integrity, and as we quietly keep showing the same face of grace, that’s the consistency that makes us (and Jesus) credible.
The area I am thinking of is a living, ongoing story of change for the better. I know of others. This works. It starts small and simple, grows through collaboration and is both social and spiritual. The basic ingredient is you and I, daring to be a bit different and committed to work as one with God and each other.