Thursday, June 23, 2011

Salt & Light...right in Jesus' eyes.





"You are the salt of the earth...you are the light of the world...let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven." Matt. 5:13-16

And I want to throw another one in just for good measure...but I'll explain why later.

"Be careful not to do your "Acts of Righteousness" before men...but when you give to the needy, do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing." Matt. 6:1-4


So anyway, many years ago myself and some other students from Bethel Seminary decided to see a Neil Young & Crazy Horse concert in Minneapolis. (I highly recommend seeing this group once in your life.) So we headed on down to the Target Center to enjoy an evening of "Rusty" guitar solos. As we approached the concert venue, we were greeted with folks holding signs similar to this one.


We all found this to be rather odd. Sure, Neil Young isn't a Believer. I'm pretty sure he still smokes pot. But it's not like he is Marylin Manson, Black Sabbath...or Barry Manilow. So what was up with the signs?!?!

As seminary students, we weren't exactly pleased with this approach towards evangelism, but we never-the-less entered the concert hall and a good time was had by all...of the hippies, bikers, posers, aging bankers wearing tie-dyed T-shirts...and seminary students. (A blistering rendition of "Crime in the City" certainly didn't hurt.) We quickly forgot about the signs.


When you were a kid, did you ever pour salt on a garden slug or a snail? Shame on you if you did...but it is pretty cool. (I used to grab Mom's salt shaker and run to the garden to play Stuka dive bomber.) The salt hits the poor creature and in reacts with it's skin. Next thing you know, you have a bubbling mess. It's all quite awesome when you are 9.

Save that thought and image.


Have you ever noticed that Christians can be a lot like the following cartoon?


There is a certain irony in displaying this cartoon. The creators of the website from which I found this, actually think this is a positive. From what I could gather, they really seem to like confrontational witnessing. I suppose that they wouldn't wish anyone to actually sow salt in people's eyes, but they certainly would encourage it verbally.

When Jesus spoke of being Salt & Light in this world, testifying to the kingdom was a given. He never said "You SHOULD be the light of the world." He just assumed it. But there is a whole lot more to being a witness then simply confronting people verbally. In context, these verses speak of his salty followers being a preserving force...because that is what salt has traditionally been used for. (No explanation should be require to explain the point of light.)


Have you ever been walking down the street and been handed a tract by someone you don't know? Maybe the tract is pretty benign. Maybe it's pretty creepy. Maybe you found a tract by a fellow named Jack Chick. He's pretty creative...in a David-Lynch-make-your-skin-crawl kind of way. Unfortunately, if you are anything other than a King James Bible Fundamentalist, you probably wont appreciate these tracts for the deep theology & gracious content.


<--- A fine example.

So a long time ago, I had signed up with a ministry group from Bethel College. I was given the task of being a "Big Brother" to a Junior High boy. Long story short, his Dad had deserted the family & his responsibilities to live "as an open and proud Gay man." (No comment.)

One day, the kid and I were out at a mall. He spots this tract thingy on the ground and picks it up. Turns out that it is one of Jack's. It also turns out that it was a tract on homosexuality. It also, also turns out that it was one of the most homo-erotic set of cartoons that I have ever seen. (Made me wonder if Jack or one of his minions had a little secret that he could barely keep hidden.)

I'm sure that it all left a great impression on the kid about Christians.


So, in Galatians 5, Paul speaks about the cross being an offense. I've always kind of figured that if the cross is already some sort of offense, then maybe...just maybe...Christians DON'T have to be. Do we really need to hand out pamphlets to people we don't know? Do we really need to pull a Todd Friel and try to argue & insult people into the kingdom? Do we really need to take a flashlight and a handful of salt and rub it in people's eyes??? Seems to me that we get more in Jesus' eyes than anyone else's.


It always strikes me how relational oriented Jesus was/is. It appears that he actually took the time to get to know people on a personal level...like a loving friend would. It also appears that, more often than not, he did that BEFOR he began teaching them, correcting them, or convicting them..

Now, I am NOT saying that there is no place for tracts, street evangelism, crusades, etc. After all...and I absolutely believe this with every fiber of my being, God uses EVERYTHING. But it does appear that at the end of the day, it's all about relationships. Jesus didn't say to his disciples at the last supper, "Obey my commands and I'll love you." He said, "IF you love me, you will obey my commands." So following him was based on a relationship. Being a witness seems like it would be too.

It should be pointed out that Billy Graham was very concerned with getting local churches involved in his crusades. He thought it extremely important to get new Believers connected to others who could help them on their journey...also known as getting young believers into positive relationships.

Earlier I added the bit about your right hand not knowing what your left hand is doing. That's kind of a Zen-like statement coming out of the mouth of the Messiah. I think that the point Jesus was trying to make was that when you are doing something good, righteous, what ever, that it simply comes out of you as if it were second nature. You don't even realize that you are doing it. Being a witness shouldn't have to be "Intentional." It certainly shouldn't have to be forced. It should just be as normal as breathing.

This means that it should also be total...a part of your overall being. In fact, you shouldn't actually have to "Witness" at all. Your life AND mine should simply reflect what Jesus is doing in you.

It's not about being perfect, either. In fact, I would argue that it's better if you simply own up to your own stupidity rather naturally, too. Your friends already know most of that about you anyway. I think it's just easier to tell others that "Yeah, I really want to Jesus to help me with this specific crap."


Earlier this week, me and a buddy drove up north to Minnesota's Iron Range. We poked around Bob Dylan's home town and stared in awe at the world's largest open-pit mine. (Pretty freaky, really.) He's a "Skeptic," but an honest one. I think his I.Q. is WAY up there, so he had a ton of tough questions for me. I'm pretty comfortable with the phrase "I don't know," which came in handy for me.

So he asks me how one can tell the difference in a worship service between what's real, and what's fake...and for Christianity in general. Thankfully, I actually had an answer for this one...and I think it's pretty spot on, if I do say so myself. Oddly enough, I had been thinking about the same thing for many years, and here is my answer: If it doesn't sound like the words that Jesus spoke, if it doesn't reflect the character that Jesus displayed, if it doesn't look like the things that Jesus did...if those things don't match up to what you are seeing, then it probably isn't OF Jesus. If that is the case, then get away as fast as you can.

Ta Da!!!!

And I would say that the same applies for your own approach to witnessing.


I really enjoyed my day with my buddy. It was a blast to have my brain picked, and to have a deep discussion with someone that I really respect. We could talk about almost anything...including the kingdom, regardless of our differing opinions. All of that may have been possible because I actually care enough to have a relationship with him. He's an awesome guy. We don't have to put on masks, or win arguments. We're just friends. I don't have to shove a bible down his throat or beat him over the head with one. I don't have to do anything other than simple "BE."

I trust God enough to leave whatever else comes out of all that in his hands.



It's just a thought, but...

I'm not convinced that sharing the Gospel looks like this.



I can't really bring myself to even comment on this, because the whole thing just makes me so angry.


Maybe instead, the Gospel often looks more like this...



This picture is from this past winter in Egypt. With all of the protests going on in Cairo, and despite the danger...and being an oppressed minority, Egyptian christians actually made a human chain around muslim protestors to protect them while they prayed.

I'd be rather curious to see if that could/would happen in this country with my fellow evangelicals.


Again, I am NOT convinced that telling people the "Good News" of the kingdom looks like this...

(Pay careful attention to the sign in the background)


I couldn't quite make out everything the "Fear God" dude was saying. I may actually agree with most of what he said. But I simply cannot see Jesus taking that approach.


Maybe, just maybe, Jesus would encourage his followers to try an approach more along these lines...

Please do watch & listen to all of this.

I tend to tear up when I watch this.

Maybe sometimes the Gospel looks a lot like that.


Last but not least, maybe, maybe, maybe...just maybe, sometimes the Gospel even looks as simple as this...


Like I said, it's just a thought.
















Peace

Joe

P.S. "Hi" Jennifer Greenberg...whoever you happen to be. :)

2 comments:

  1. What you wrote truly inspires me. It is sad to see that some people who are chosen to be Christian turn to be an irony instead of blessings.

    And the Witness picture.. I am an active member of a choir at church, but most of us (includes me, unfortunately) just singing the gospel not living it. We sing at the ceremony but afterwards we go back to our life as if we were just singing a song.

    There is no guarantee that even if we are active in a church, join a choir, live in a Christian family, and surrounded with Christian friends, we would become more like what God wants us to be.

    But I am staying positive. People will change and be better, because we are chosen by God, and God makes no mistake. ^^

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Astrid. (BTW: You have the same name as Neil Young's sister and back-up singer. Very cool!)

      Life is difficult as it is. But I realize more & more that to be a Christian is tough. I mean, sure, Jesus did all of the heavy lifting to establish the beauty of grace, but to walk the walk is still hard on any given day. Maybe we just make it hard, I dunno.

      I get on people for doing dumb things like this "Sign holding, tract pushing, bible smacking" stuff, but then I end up as guilty as them and act like a jerk when I bark at them. (I'm really good at being a jerk, in fact.)

      I wish that the process of sanctification was instantaneous, but it isn't. I suppose that's the whole point of a relationship with Jesus. In the mean time, you & I have to hold each other's hand and help each other along the way.

      Thank you for the kind words.

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