I am not always a big fan of The Message Bible translation, but sometimes it gives me such a fresh perspective on scripture, and the simple language allows the truth to get right into my heart. For example, this week I read Matthew 5:13-14:
Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?… Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.
It can be so easy to get bogged down and forget the greater purpose our lives are designed for, making God visible and tangible to the world. I know that I often get so wrapped up in my own concerns and struggles, I forget they are opportunities: chances for my faith to grow, examples I can look back on, obstacles I can wrestle with, and all of these things will shape me and the way that I reflect God to the people around me. To me, that is the best way to understand the meaning of being made in God’s image, that my purpose is to show what God is like. Certainly on most days, reflecting God is not the first thing I think of, and my actions and reactions often fall very short of this lofty goal, but it helps me not give up when I remember that it’s God’s plan, not my own.
The flip side of forgetting our purpose, however, is trying so hard to live up to it that we get in our own way. Reflecting is actually a very passive activity – a mirror doesn’t strain to show you every pore and freckle; the moon does not bother with core hydrogen exhaustion. In the same way, reflecting God to the world is not something that should burn us out, but oftentimes it does. I think one of the challenges we face is getting lost in our own Christianity – we focus so hard on being salty that we miss the “God-flavors” we are supposed to enhance and develop.This week Matt and I had the chance to visit friends who live a few hours from us, and they had a salt shaker that illustrates this point perfectly. Twice in two days the bottom of the salt shaker fell out, spilling tons of salt and rendering the food it landed on completely inedible. Salt is delicious when it is sprinkled over french fries, but equal parts salt and potato would make anyone sick to their stomach. The Matthew passage talks about salt losing its saltiness, but I think too-saltiness is something we should be wary of as well. Christians like to “Christianize” things – from rock music to breath mints – but I think it would be even better if we could perceive and highlight aspects of secular culture that point to God. We believe in a Creator who has not left anyone out of his plan, but we don’t always admit when his creativity exceeds our own and he decides to use some person or circumstance that clashes with our expectations.
I don’t want to be afraid of people or circumstances that don’t fit neatly into a box that I understand. The power of salt and light is based on what is already there, waiting to be tasted and seen, and I want to be better at perceiving what God is doing so I can participate with Him. I think the hardest part might be getting out of my own way.