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Called To Be Salt and Light in the World

January 5, 2015

In November, we were privileged to have Dr. Sid Webb on campus to share some of the innovative and entrepreneurial ways that individuals and ministries are serving in God’s kingdom.  We’re excited to continue our conversation with Dr. Webb as he explores the topic of redeeming work and what it means to be the salt and the light within God’s kingdom.

What’s your label?

Westerners tend to define each other by what we do for a living.  Sarah, barista.  Elizabeth, queen.  Paul, tentmaker.  What’s your label?  In truth, you have many of them; labels not only for occupation but for behavior, “tribe,” and speech.

As Americans tangle these days in regard to the role a believer plays in a secular society, we all, believer and unbeliever alike, label each other.  How does the secular world label me, or you?

In Colossians 4:5-6, Paul gives two commands in relation to our walk in the midst of a secular society.  One command has to do with how we live, and one with what we say.  He says, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

To “walk” in Greek means to walk around in the course of one’s daily activities.  As we daily rub shoulders with the unbelieving world, we should have the kind of actions and speech that draw people in rather than alienate them.  It doesn’t help the Gospel to needlessly antagonize the “pagan” community.

“To make the best use” is actually a market word with the meaning of “buying time,” in the sense of making the most of an opportunity.  Our winsome speech and behavior should leave the outside world with favorable impressions of the Gospel.  Continually.

To have “salted speech” is a big challenge.  These days it seems as if we swim in a burning sea of negativity, with rising hostility.  The news gives us many reasons to be angry.  Because we believers have strong values, it’s tempting to lash out and condemn this evil world for any number of reasons.

Paul lived during the Roman Empire and was familiar with a culture of media exaggeration and public venom.  Yet, he counseled the kind of seasoned speech which is inviting to outsiders, rather than off-putting.  While there are times we should spew fire in order to call our society to account, it isn’t the best way to reach our individual neighbors.

God called us to be salt and light, not just to our tribe of Christians, but to the world. Is that mandate for “clergy” only?  Surely not.  Years ago, when I entered seminary, the school required that I commit to going full-time into the pastorate or onto the mission field.  Now that I’ve served for over thirty years, however, I have come to see that there are other options.  What happens to those who aren’t called into formal full-time ministry?  The answer is that they may be directly positioned by God for significant impact.

God has called all of us to be stewards.  All of us are created to minister.  Some will do so and receive compensation.  Many will attend seminary, whether they become ordained or not.  But ALL are called to walk wisely and winsomely in this world.  God intended to call believers into a wide spectrum of occupations so that they could season the world with grace.

We should flood the marketplace with Christ-followers who are gifted, competent, and compassionate.  Let’s seed believers in occupations everywhere who will do a bang-up job in their professions and be attractive through their speech and their love.  That includes anything from journalists, lawyers, and business owners, to convenience store clerks.  I once saw a janitor at the world’s busiest airport singing hymns in the men’s room he was responsible for cleaning.  He turned his dirty workplace into a kingdom space.

A friend of mine is the worldwide head of licensing for a famous agricultural company.  During the course of his career he has tried to change directions several times and go into professional ministry.  Each time, God has told him, No, I want you to stay in business and let your light shine there.  As a result, my friend is reaching people that he would never reach otherwise.

The days in our world may grow yet darker.  But light becomes even more noticeable the darker things get.  God has planted you in some kingdom space to shine your light.

In what corner of the world is your kingdom space?
How are you redeeming it?
How are you labeled?

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