Persecution, Salt, and Light

At church last Sunday, the preacher’s text was Matthew 5:10-16:

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Mat 5:10-16 KJV)

The preacher first talked about persecution.  He discussed reasons that the early Christians were persecuted: they were misunderstood as cannibals because they ate the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist, and they refused to worship the Roman gods, which the Romans believed would influence the gods to withhold blessing from the Roman empire.  In giving examples of modern day persecution, the preacher mentioned scenarios of being criticized for being vocal about one’s faith on Facebook and in e-mails.

The preacher then talked about how Christians are the salt of the earth.  They add flavor to the world.  As salt makes people thirsty, so Christians make people thirsty for what Christians have.  Salt was also a preservative in the days before refrigeration, and Christians, too, preserve what is good and decent in the world.

On Christians being the light of the world, the preacher said that Christians are a light in a world of darkness and that people are attracted to the light.

The preacher was also lamenting about how so many Christians tell people to look to Jesus rather than themselves, since they fall short.  He was saying that Christians instead need to be role models.  He also said that everyone makes mistakes, but what is important is what one does after making the mistakes.

One can nitpick some of this.  People are attracted to the light?  Jesus appeared to say the opposite in John 3:19-20: people love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil!  That would coincide more with what the preacher was saying about persecution!  And yet, one can understand why light would be attractive, or at least should be: Is not a lighted room where we can see better than a dark room in which we are stumbling around?

I can identify areas of personal disagreement between myself and the sermon. There is the pressure on me to be a walking advertisement before people, which I resent.  There is the dualist distinction between Christians and non-Christians, when both are human beings with strengths and weaknesses, trying to make their way in the world.  There is the labeling of people who do not want religion crammed down their throat as persecutors.

But here I want to look for common ground.  Where I agree is here: Christians should be influenced by Jesus Christ to make a positive difference in the world.

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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