How do we effectively live for Jesus Christ in a hostile environment?
How can we effectively impact our culture for Jesus Christ? While there are a variety of things we could mention, for our purposes we are just going to examine four essentials that we MUST do if we truly want to exemplify salt and light.
The first essential is we must strive for authentic unity. During the Last Supper, Jesus made the following statement to His disciples “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). Just as the disciples, when we show love and are united together as brothers and sisters in Christ we demonstrate to the world that we are truly His followers. In fact, the unity among believers was at the center of Jesus’ prayer prior to His crucifixion:
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:20-23).
So what does it mean to have authentic unity? First, authentic unity does not compromise the essentials of the faith. As a soccer coach, I recognize the importance of having my team unified and working together. In fact, throughout the season I am intentional about incorporating team-building activities into our training. I recognize that when unity is present it makes my team better equipped to achieve the goals that have been set for the season. However, I have also recognized that this unity cannot be achieved at the cost of the core values of our program. The core values are who we are as a team and when we compromise them it undermines the very purpose of what we are about.
So, too, in the body of Christ, we can never compromise the core values of our Christian faith for the sake of unity. Consider the following words by the apostle John, which taken in the context of a culture that valued hospitality, clearly demonstrates this point, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works” (2 John 9-11). The great preacher Charles Spurgeon was correct when he said, “to pursue union [unity] at the expense of truth is treason to Jesus.” Thus, if we want to be salt and light, then we must avoid compromising the fundamentals of our faith and strive after an authentic unity.
Second, while authentic unity does not compromise the essentials of the faith, it does not divide over non-essentials. I am sure we all can agree that the world we live in today is clearly divided. In fact, people are often segregated based upon things such as race, social class, and economic status. While this may be true of the world, this should not be true of the body of Christ. We should never allow non-essentials such as the color of our skin, and the neighborhoods we live in to EVER divide us. We need to always be mindful that we are all one in Christ Jesus, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28; see also Colossians 3:11).
Third, authentic unity avoids gossip and jealousy of other believers. My oldest daughter is in middle school and one of the things that we deal with on a daily basis is the “drama” that goes on at school. My daughter is always telling us stories about people gossiping and lying about one another. While this is normal behavior for the world, it should never be normal behavior among true followers of Jesus Christ. In fact, gossip has become an overlooked sin by many in the church today. Instead of being like the world, we should function as one body with many parts where “if one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Our job is not to tear each other down, but to encourage and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11). When we do this, we will find that we will be more effective in impacting this world for Jesus Christ.
Finally, authentic unity reflects an attitude of humility toward each other. As believers in Christ, we should always be looking for ways to serve those around us, and to put the needs of other believers before our own. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3, 4). If you read the remainder of this chapter, you will find that the greatest example of this was Jesus Himself. In fact, when we choose to live our lives just as Jesus did, then we will find ourselves being salt and light.
When I was younger I had the opportunity to go with my father on several mission trips to Haiti. While I was there, I developed a close relationship with a Haitian named Elage. He would often go with us when we went into the villages to share the Gospel. Despite our close relationship, we lost contact since my last visit to Haiti. Then, out of nowhere I received a message from him that he had married an American and they were living in a city that was only a few hours from where I lived. In fact, he let me know that he would be coming past my area in the next few weeks and he wanted to stop by and see me and my family. I can still remember when he walked into my parent’s house and despite the fact that we had not seen each other for over 20 years, we both had the biggest smile on our faces as we embraced each other. At that moment, the fact that he was Haitian and I was American, and that he was black and I was white meant nothing. All that mattered was that we were brothers in Christ who were excited to see each other again.
I cherish the photos I have of Elage and I, both then and now, standing side by side. The images of the two of us are exactly what God desires for His followers. He wants us to strive for authentic unity so that through it we can demonstrate to the world that we are truly His followers.
In our next post we will examine the second key in how to impact our world for Jesus Christ: Staying focused on our true mission.