Summary: Have an impact on society through the 1) Presupposition of the world’s corruption and darkness, the 2) Plan for believers’ godly dominion in the world, the 3) Problem of the danger of failure, and the 4) Purpose of glorifying God.
Chuck Colson recently gave an interesting scenario: “Imagine the following social experiment: You divide up (people) into two groups. Those who agreed to live by traditional moral values live in certain (locations). Those who reject traditional values take up residence in other (locations) that would allow them to do whatever they pleased, morally speaking. After 20 years, which (locations) would be better off—economically speaking? The traditional values locations would be far better off, because the (morally) liberal (locations) would be spending $500 billion dollars every year dealing with the economic costs of their moral decisions.
Jim DeMint and David Woodward outline those costs in their book, titled: Why We Whisper: Restoring Our Right to Say It’s Wrong. As the authors note, "As elected officials and judges continue to throw traditions overboard from the ship of state," conspicuously absent from the political debate "is the mounting cost in dollars [and] debt."
• They outline costs like treating sexually transmitted diseases yet alone secondary costs, like treating cervical cancer, infertility, birth defects, and brain damage. And yet, (public health authorities and educators) do little or nothing to discourage premarital sex. And then there are the huge costs of out-of-wedlock childbearing and welfare costs alone to single-parent families. We pay indirectly, as well, through costs associated with child abuse—much more common in single-parent homes—and in higher crime rates.
• Crime and incarceration rates are soaring. One of the leading causes of crime that the authors show are fatherless families, and the lack of moral training during the morally formative years.
• (Canadians) spend billions on abortions—mostly to single women—not counting the expense of treating post-abortion medical and psychological problems.
• We also pay huge economic bills associated with pornography and government-sponsored gambling. We pay for the easy availability of divorce and for the choice of many to cohabit instead of marry.
As DeMint and Woodward write, the quest for unfettered moral freedom has come at a very steep price—a price we all pay, whether we engage in these behaviors or not. And at the same time as we pay—more and more each year—we are being told (by media outlets, provincial human rights commissions and others, that (we are narrow-minded bigots if we speak out against the destructive behaviors that are causing the increased costs. (http://www.breakpoint.org/listingarticle.asp?ID=7820)
Recent Ontario Human Rights commission rulings against Christian ministries come in a long line of active denegration of public faith in society.
In Matthew 5:13-16 the Lord summarizes the function of believers in the world. Reduced to one word, that function is influence. Whoever lives according to the Beatitudes is going to function in the world as salt and light. Christian character consciously or unconsciously affects other people for better or for worse.
• When we live the life of the Beatitudes some people will respond favorably and be saved, whereas others will ridicule and persecute us.
• Though Jesus was speaking before a great multitude of people on the hillside, His teaching about kingdom life was primarily for His disciples, for those who believed in Him.
o The principles He teaches here are appropriate only for believers, for they are impossible to follow apart from the power of God’s own Spirit.
o Here is a mandate for Christians to influence the world. The Beatitudes are not to be lived in isolation or only among fellow believers, but everywhere we go.
There are two poor reactions that we can come to in response to general moral corruption in society. We can be either surprised as to the persecution and we need to get our heads out of the sand. Or, we think there is nothing we can do, and bemoan the moral state of society. God doesn’t want either for His people. He calls us to be salt and light.
The figures of salt and light emphasize different characteristics of influence, but their basic purpose is the same. In Matthew 5:13-16 we are to have an impact on society and in this section of God’s word we can see the 1) Presupposition of the world’s corruption and darkness, the 2) Plan for believers’ godly dominion in the world, the 3) Problem of the danger of failure, and the 4) Purpose of glorifying God.
1) THE PRESUPPOSITION: CORRUPTION AND DARKNESS
The world needs salt because it is corrupt and it needs light because it is dark.
Quote: G. Campbell Morgan said, “Jesus, looking out over the multitudes of His day, saw the corruption, the disintegration of life at every point, its breakup, its spoilation; and, because of His love of the multitudes, He knew the thing that they needed most was salt in order that the corruption should be arrested. He saw them also wrapped in gloom, sitting in darkness, groping amid mists and fogs. He knew that they needed, above everything else, … light” (The Gospel According to Matthew [New York: Revell, 1929], p. 46).