March 19, 2008

Becoming Salt and Light

The kids are off from school this week for Spring break. While I am enjoying our time together, I’m finding it challenging to get into a rhythm and concoct clever plans for our days. I guess today’s writing is reflective of my state of mind—scattered.

While I was at the gym this morning reading the close captions on the bank of TVs, it struck (again) me how hard it is live in this world and be a Christian. We are surrounded by a society that is anything but godly—a presidential election that seems more about hate and hypocrisy than hope and reason; powerful men seduced by their seeming immortality, tumbling to reality in disgrace and scandal; a pervasive message that tells our young people that sex isn’t really sex and morals are flexible because it all depends on your point of view; a family unit that makes a married mom and dad optional; and our national obsession with celebrities…and that’s just what I saw in 45 minutes while on the stationery bike!

I’m often tempted to curse the darkness and rant about how bad everything and everyone is. Or to live in an ivory tower and shut it all out.

A few months ago, my daughter felt this way. She was upset and told me she thought that God was telling her to switch to a Christian school. My husband and I are extremely pleased with the public school she attends so I was surprised by this. When I pressed her for an explanation, it seemed her concern centered on the ungodly influences at school and the choices of some of her peers. As a mother protecting her young, my first instinct was to get on her transfer ASAP! But after a few moments of consideration, and a quick silent prayer, I saw that my daughter’s request was more about running away than running toward. It was about looking for that ivory tower where life is “good” and safe.

As I told her, our challenge as Christians is to live IN the world, but not OF the world. Jesus says, “you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” (John 15:19). As believers we are future residents of heaven and aliens in this world. But while we await our inheritance, we are commanded to be salt and light. Jesus tells us, “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14, 16).

Every day, all around us, there is so much darkness—much of which the world embraces. But Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world and neither should we. As followers of Christ, we’re set apart and our behavior and good deeds should light the path so that others can find their way out of the darkness—to Jesus.

Figuring out how to do this is hard. It’s an area I struggle with daily.

How about you? Do you have any suggestions, personal examples or experiences of living in but not of the world that we can learn from?


Katherine said...

Hey Kelli!

Actually, I am kind of going through this scenario now.

All my life I was taught that Christians were supposed to fellowship with each other and not to associate excessively with "non believers". This type of teaching was to extend from friends as well as a future husband.

But as I am growing in my faith, I am noticing that most people who are unbelievers don't have an "example" to follow. Either most Christians are becoming more "of the world" or they are disassociating themselves with unbelievers.

The best course of action for me is to keep my associations but also letting them know where I stand and my beliefs and then just living them out; letting them see me not only for who I am but with my acknowledgement of Christ in my life. You'd be surprised by what you say or do is being watched and seeds are being planted.

When I look back at some of the people I could have influenced but didn't because of my "teachings" I feel bad. But now I know and try to invite everyone in.


Patty said...

Hey Kelli,
I loved the way you handled this with your daughter. It was a wonderful reminder of the direction we should be heading towards... not away from. I plan on sharing this one with my kids!

Peggy said...

This is a very disturbing world we live in. As we Christians are told, we should lead others by our words and actions and always give God the glory.
You already know that my life has beeen in complete disaster, however I know God has a plan for me.
The destroyer is trying to control my life at this time and is messing with my mind, however, I was reminded yesterday that I am a child of God and I have been forgiven. Also that God's love will never fail me.
I know that I have to put on my armour of Christianity and hold my head to the heavens, then I will be able to do battle with anyone who trys to stop me.
May God's grace, love and armour not only cover me, but you, your family and all my Woodside family.
Blessings and Love,

mamma mia said...

I understand your "scattered" state of mind with kids home all day. It's safe inside the walls of my routine. I get up, have my quiet time with God, get the kids off to school with kisses (sometimes not :/) and then it's time to make choices... how to spend my time... the list is long...I am being pulled from all sides... I pray for discernment. I have been fascinated lately with Eckhart Tolle, author of the Power of Now. He is currently being interviewed each week by Oprah on her website monday nights at 9pm via a web conference. His philosophy basically is to try to always remain in the "present" to find peace... I find the more you isolate yourself the easier it is to stay focused on the present and I am not sure this is a good thing. Turn on the TV, go to the mall, open a magazine, listen to the radio.... it's a bombardment of stimulation that forces us to constantly make choices.. forcing us to constantly put our values and moral to the test. Maybe we are given these small everyday test to help condition us for the really big tests... so we will be ready when our faith is truly tested. The ivory tower is safe but stagnant. I would rather be forever growing, learning and changing hopefully for the better. Keep writing Kelly, it's food for my soul!

Scott B said...

Way to deep for a morning read. It ran through my head all day.

From the age of children to our old age we continue to do battle against peer pressure. Whether it’s making that dangerous jump on our bike, smoking that 1st cigarette or pushing the ethical envelope in a business transaction there are always going to be pressures. As Christians, the challenge is to continue to do the right thing. The saving grace is knowing that failure doesn’t necessarily doom you. We’re human; we’re expected to make mistakes, so we pick up the pieces and keep doing the best we can.

As you’ve said before Kelli, it’s not easy being a Christian. The safe part of me tells me to spend more & more time with my Christian friends. Hanging out with my non-Christian friends could lead to temptations and bad choices. But as long as I remain true to myself, and Christ, then maybe through example I will get to introduce somebody else to his glory. It’s the more difficult road, but the more rewarding. Remember, even Jesus felt it was more important to spend time with those who really needed a relationship with the Father.


Justin said...

Kelli, this entry demonstrates your great spiritual maturity.

The church where I work is wrestling with this issue even now.

I'm so glad that you recognized that Christians are not called to an escapist living apart from the world. Rather, we are sent into the world -- sometimes like lambs among wolves! -- to build relationship, practice hospitality, and proclaim the kingdom of God.

Because this is Holy Week, reading the Passion as recorded in the gospel of John is especially appropriate. As you read it, notice that Jesus says, "As I was sent by the Father, so I send you." The church is a sent and sending community and not a kingdom unto itself!

danregan said...

I'm not sure what I can add that hasn't already been said by your other posters -- except to say I'm certain that trying to "escape" this world is the wrong move. We're in it. God put us here. Deal with it.

There's no point - and plenty of potential harm - in being an insular Christian. Salt and light, indeed! If we don't emerge every so often from our "safe" Bible studies, devotionals, Christian schools, Christian music festivals and Christian conferences to tell others what we know and how it's changed our lives...who exactly will?

I understand the temptations, shortfalls and brokenness of today's world. But, if we feel that the only way to handle it is to retreat to our safe Christian places...well, then we aren't showing very much faith in (to steal liberally from Peggy's post) the armor that God has prepared us with.

Jesus built the most important ministry in the history of the world on consorting directly with crooked public servants, prostitutes, warped "leaders," thieves, idol-worshipers and atheists -- every one of which has been front-and-center in the news over the past week or so.

The Earth never changes. But, we can.