Monday, March 29, 2010

Salt and Light of the Earth

Jesus talked in parables.  His ideas were unconventional but He presented them in ways that were familiar to the people listening to Him.  This style of talking sets the mind in the right position as it allows something concrete to base the new idea upon.  Simple as it may have seem, the message required deeper thoughts to understand it.  Since time immemorial, salt and light are among the everyday stuff of living.  Everyone understood what they are and what they are for.  However, when Jesus likened their lives to these concrete ideas, some ponderings on the part of the people became necessary.  Enough with spoon-feeding, it was time to sort the crowd - those who who understood Him and those who were headless fanatics.

"You are the salt of the earth." ~ Matthew 5:13a
Salt is used for seasoning.  Added at the right amount, salt is used to make foods taste better.  It enhances or exposes the hidden flavors of food.  Even in candy making, a pinch of salt is added to improve the sweetness of the candies.  It makes eating more gratifying and enjoyable.  As Christians we are meant to live a life of substance like that of salt.   This body is only the casing a more valuable portion of this life.  God had a purpose for each of us - to be a "seasoning" to life in this world.  When we offer ourselves to season the lives of others, we live a life that pleases our Creator.  Live therefore the purpose that you were prepared for lest you lose your significance.

Salt is used as a preservative.  First of all, no microorganism can stand the strength of pure salt.   Before the advent of refrigeration, the only way to preserve food especially in places with hot climates was salting.    Furthermore, when added to vegetables and herbs like garlic, salt absorbs the water out and preserves the flavor inside.  This allows them to maintain their usefulness over time.  Salt brings out what lies inside to create a balance between the internal and external conditions. 

How then shall we live if God intended for us to be salt of the earth?  Life around us can be bland and marching towards decay.  Preserve the inherent good while suppressing the inessential and destructive aspects of living. 

"You are the light of the world." ~ Matthew 5:14a 
Light reveals while darkness conceals.  Light bears the inherent ability to expose things so that the eyes would see things that are. However, depending on its position it may not serve that function.  Jesus calls us to poise our lives in such a way that we bring to light that which is true.  Hold your torch so that light floods in all directions.  If you have been filled with the spirit of God, does it show? 

Jesus came to earth to redeem His people who would inherit His kingdom.  You and I are here not to desire to live a life of comfort but of victory by proclaiming about His kingdom.  Victorious people are not complacent.  Through His grace, we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit so that our lives would be the light that peels away darkness.  After two thousand years, many still do not know about that kingdom.  If we have been graced with the knowledge of the truth about God then by all means let your deeds shed light.  Make sure that your lifestyle does not jeopardize your calling as the light of the world.

"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." ~ Matthew 5:16

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Boardwalk Living

Earlier this month my family spent a weekend in San Simeon.  Along the bluff that runs above the beaches are miles of boardwalks. You could ignore them and take off cross country, but they were placed there for a purpose. They provide safety for the visitors and protection for the animals and plants in the coastal ecosystem.  Boardwalks provide a sense of anticipation because there is a destination--a destination that promises the best. The best view, perhaps, or the most freedom, the most fun. We can't always see that destination, though. We get only glimpses of the majestic ocean between sand dunes, or shrubs or around a small bend in the path. Without the destination in full view, our attention shifts to the things along the path.

On the boardwalk, there are signs that give directions so that anyone can reach the destination.  There are signs that tell travellers what they should not do such as "Do not feed the animals" or "Do not step on the plants."  The signs are placed there, at strategic locations, because somebody knew what temptations we might face.  I noticed, as we were walking, that my daughter, Shannon, was way behind.  She was distracted by the squirrels playing and running all around the boardwalk.   She knew she was not supposed to feed them, but she teased them by pretending to give them some food.  In the mean time, other people were approaching and we were getting in their way.

Matthew 5:13-7:29 : An Overview
Starting with Chapter 5, and continuing all the way to the Chapter 7, Jesus gives a sermon as he sits on the side of the mountain.   Aware of the temptations of this life and the tendencies of mankind, Jesus gave us guidelines for us to adhere to while we are on the boardwalk.  His sermon addresses three major aspects of our "boardwalk living".  I would summarize them as follows:

 1. Relationship to God (our destination) - Jesus emphasized the importance of keeping our focus on our destination - God Himself.  There are pleasures for us to enjoy on our way to Him.  He allows us glimpses of His glory even before we get there, although every once in a while our view of Him is obscured by our circumstances.  He waits for our arrival, when we can experience Him fully.  Pricilla Shirer, in her book "One in a Million," describes that kind of experience as the promised-land living.  That is our destination.  God has prepared an abundant life for us but we need to get there and experience it.

2. Relationship with Others (other people on the boardwalk) - The boardwalk is a shared path and, at times, there are people who walk with us.  We have to be considerate so that they will also enjoy their walk.  God wants the flow towards Him to be steady.  We need to love one another so that our journey will be pleasurable and smooth. 

 3. Protection of our Faith (footing) - The boardwalk is provided but there are no attendants there.  We walk there knowing that we can move forward on that path that has been provided for us.  The boardwalk is narrow; anyone can be careless and distracted.  Falling into temptation along the way will only delay my arrival to my destination.  

On this narrow path that leads to his kingdom, we must remember the destination. Otherwise, the distractions that are so common along the path will take us on a painful detour. Many times, our biggest difficulties are with our fellow travellers, but Jesus guides us on how to live with others gracefully, to hurt no one and stretch out extravagantly to others in love.