In his book The Living Church, John Stott includes a chapter in which he discusses the responsibility for believers to be salt and light in society. There is one section of this chapter that struck me and I thought it would be worth sharing, especially during this politically charged season. Stott wrote:
If the house is dark at night, there is no sense in blaming the house for its darkness. That is what happens when the sun goes down. The question to ask is: where is the light?
Again, if the meat goes bad and becomes inedible, there is no sense in blaming the meat for its decay. That is what happens when the bacteria are left free to breed. The question to ask is: where is the salt?
Similarly, if society becomes corrupt (like a dark night or stinking fish), there is no sense in blaming society for its corruption. That is what happens when human evil is unchecked and unrestrained. The question to ask is: where is the church? Where is the salt and light of Jesus?
It is hypocritical to raise our eyebrows and shrug our shoulders as if it were not our responsibility. Jesus told us to be salt and light to society. If therefore darkness and rottenness abound, it is to a large measure our fault, and we must accept much of the blame.
Stott’s analysis is piercing and, in my estimation, exactly right. So what is the answer? How does social change take place? How do we, as believers, function as salt and light? Stott identified 6 weapons that believers have in their armory:
1. Prayer – “I sometimes wonder if the slow progress toward world peace and world evangelization is due to the prayerlessness of the people of God.”
2. Evangelism – “It is when the Holy Spirit changes us that we begin to develop a social conscience and gain the vision and courage to change our society.”
3. Example – “Human beings are imitative by nature. So there is great power in example. A single Christian who takes an uncompromising stand for righteousness, encourages others to follow.”
4. Argument – “In the end unjust social structures can be changed only by legislation. Legislation cannot make bad people good, but it can reduce the level of evil in society and so make it more pleasing to God.”
5. Action – “Jesus sends us all into the world to serve, and all of us are called to be responsible citizens, to exercise our democratic rights, to vote and seek to influence other people’s votes, to speak up and write on current issues, and to engage in public, peaceful protest and witness, and in these ways to be salt and light to society.”
6. Suffering – ” Suffering is a test of our authenticity. Both evangelism and social action are costly activities. For both the gospel of Christ and the moral standards of Christ are unpopular. They challenge our selfishness. So those who defend God’s law and God’s gospel are bound to suffer opposition.”
Here are some questions we, as believers, must ask: Are we using the weapons we have to impact the darkness and lostness of our society? Are we truly being salt and light? Is the neighborhood surrounding our church different because we are involved? If our church closed its doors today, would anyone notice?