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Vineeth Babu MA, M.

Th
A visible community: Called to be a Challenging community
Time itself calls us for a new understanding of mission. We live in a period of transition, on
the borderline between a paradigm that no longer satisfies and one that is, to a large extent,
still amorphous and opaque. In a crisis world question such as what is the Christian‟s
relationship to the world? How are we to live in the world? How can our witness be
authentic? Are some of the vital questions facing today. How can be role models in this
stressful and troubled world? Always misguided Christians act impulsively or unadvisedly,
and the world is not impressed. But no more we can make the same mistakes. Therefore it is
imperative to look at what kind of world surrounds us?

1. A Fast food culture

“I want it and I want it now” attitude. It is an age of fast foods, instant banking, fast-acting
medicines, E-mails, Super Computers and Supersonic Jets. People become impatient with
traffic lights, waiting in lines and unsuccessful sporting coaches. Today, contemporary
church is also largely shaped by a consumer mentality rather than a missional spirituality.
People come to church primarily for personal well being rather than for worship, teaching,
and spiritual and missional formation.
2. An Entertained World

In the economic boom, entertainment has got integrated to all aspects of life. News becomes
„infotainment‟; education becomes „edutainment‟ and so on. Life does not have any serious
purpose, just a series of entertainments. Wages are good guide to modern values. Sports stars
and film stars earn crores of rupees for their act. Compare the wages of these entertainers
with those of teachers, nurses, carpenters, helpers. Such an emphasis encourages people
become passive, self-indulgent, comfortable, and soft, focusing upon pleasure rather than
duties. When that pleasure is combined with unlimited with unlimited individual freedom, it
will end up in disaster. Church wise, pressures then come for short sermons, brief prayers,
shallow bright singing, and the provision of all sorts of social and sporting services. Church
services become lifeless services. Easy come, easy go.
3. A Confused world
In the age of universal meltdown, India seems to be nation in heat. People are not hesitated to
do any kind barbaric acts. If social norms are changing, with the touch stones of modern life
under blockade, then sexual mores are in a state of confusion. “What was considered a
pervasion earlier is a guiltless pleasure now. What was thought of a taboo is now believed to
be an all access VIP pass. Indian Church does not have an answer to it.

4. Consumerism

The new world has no „stands,‟ but only „standpoints.‟ One of the new standpoint is to
consume more. An identity of a person is not according to his beliefs or being, but according
to his capacity to consume more. Cities that were defined by history, economy or education
were redefined by malls, pubs, eat-outs, theme parks and night life. Accountability to God,
fidelity to human relationships, and respect for moral law are constantly degraded or derailed
in the pursuit of things and status.

5. A generation that worship themselves


Another mark of this post modern generation is „body worship.‟ Health, fitness, beauty,
attractiveness, grooming… all became day to day vocabulary. The “Me First” and “I am all
right” syndrome increasingly dominates a rootless and restless culture. Many live for their
rights, benefits, and privileges, but fail to recognize their responsibilities and duties.
It is in such a contemporary culture that our Lord Jesus summons us to become what we are,
to live out the characteristics predicted of every Christian in the beatitudes (Matt 5:1-12).
These qualities reveal the inward and spiritual nature of a Christian, and are expressed in our
aims, attitudes, ambitions, priorities, relationships, desires, and activities. In all of these
marks of kingdom citizenship, it is clear that Christians will be different from the worldly
people around them. In this situation Jesus called us to be a visible community: called to be
a challenging community (Matt. 5:13-16).
When the Lord describes Christians as salt and light, He is expressing both their character
and function. Here function becomes important, whereas earlier only the qualities of spiritual
life were in focus. When the world around us seems bent on its own destruction, or
indifferent to its own danger, we Christians are to stand up and be counted, not just for the
sake of being different. But to be the „salt‟ that preserves and purifies, a light that will shine
in darkness. What can be said about these ever present images in the context of Jesus‟
sermon?
1. Both are symbols of penetration
Salt and light penetrate their medium of application. Jesus is demonstrating that Christians
are to be involved in the world, interacting with people and events, and engaged in the issue
of life. Salt does not have an identity of its own, but is sprinkled out over food or rubbed into
meat. So with light, it radiates from its source, permeates the darkness, and sheds light on
things formerly unseen. The following story better explains it. In a cemetery a little white
stone marked the grave of a dear little girl, and on the stone were chiseled these words- “A
child of whom her playmates said, “it was easier to be good when she was with us”. One of
the most beautiful epitaphs ever heard of. The life that narrated by our master cannot be
better illustrated than this short example of the little girl who influenced her peer groups.
This means penetration, not isolation Christians are not called to withdraw from the world
as St. Antony moved to the desert in the early church years. In this global village of ours
there are no geographical distance or monastery walls effective enough to raise any physical
barrier to exclude the world.
This also means penetration, not assimilation. The church is not to become like the world.
Christians are not to adopt the standards around them, but a life that will imitate Christ and
his principles. Evangelism must be done the Lord‟s way, not by the undiscerning acceptance
of worldly methods. Here we are not supposed to compromise with the world, rather present
the message with the Christian distinctiveness. Luther wrote “the cross is our theology,” and
“the cross tests everything”. The images of salt and light also mean penetration, not
domination. Cross neither portray a Christianity of Constantine times nor a Christianity of
crusaders.
2. Both are symbols of Impact
A roman proverb couples sunlight and salt together as the two things which keep the world
alive and sweet. Homer calls it divine; Plato the substance dear to the gods; Pythagoras spoke
of it as the emblem of righteousness. Then the metaphor on the Savior‟s lips describes that
His disciples are the noble and indispensable element in the world; they sweeten, purify, and
enrich its work, its thoughts, its social intercourse, its joys, its laws and literature. They save
it from corruption, decomposition, and moral death. The great sea of life, like the sea which
washes our shores, would become putrid without it.
When believers reflect God‟s light, people are challenged and informed. Weak believers are
encouraged to stand firm, seekers are drawn to find out more about God, the wavering are
reinforced in high moral standards, society may ban evil ventures and neighbors may
abandon adulterous behavior.
Most Christians are relatively anonymous, and their effectiveness is best known to God.
History tells us that the disciples of Christ were the salt of the Roman empire during the evil
days of its decline, and preserved Christianity as a moral force in society. The heroes of
Reformation were the salt of England and Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries,
and saved the church from a moral wreck. At the last day we may be astonished where our
light has shown and where our salt has prevented destruction in many lives.

A Christianity which has lost its focus has lost its salt and is not only insipid in itself, but
useless for the world, so with the light. Here Jesus means, “If you are not careful of your
position as salt of the earth and light of the world, you will lose your edge, your
distinctiveness, your abrasiveness, your power, your very reason for being.

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