Salt and Light
Interaction vs. Isolation
Japan is currently facing a generational social problem called “hikikomori.” Over five hundred thousand men and women in their twenties and thirties are shutting themselves off from all social interaction with the outside world. The hikikomori waste their weeks in isolation watching TV, playing video games, and refusing to ever leave their bedrooms. There have even been cases reported where some hikikomori have spent the last ten or twenty years in total seclusion from other human beings.
The social isolation of these modern hermits mirrors the spiritual isolation sought by many Christians today. There are many believers whose implicit desire is to have no contact with non-believers. The goal is simple. Keep all social contact and influence within a Christian bubble: only have Christian friends, only build relationships with Christian coworkers, and only consume Christian media.
But you can only shove so much into a bubble before it bursts.
Though such people may have a good intention at heart – such as cultivating a positive spiritual environment for their family – the practical consequence of this mentality is wholly antithetical to the mission of the Church.
In His final charge to the Twelve Disciples, Jesus proclaimed that the believer’s calling is not to become exiled from the world, but engage with it (Matthew 28:18-20). Because Christ has all authority in heaven, His disciples have the charge and empowering to make disciples of all nations.
Instead of disengaging themselves from nonbelievers, Christians are commanded to engage them with the truth of the Gospel. Jesus explained this mission mindset in the Sermon on the Mount with two powerful analogies: salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16).
As salt enhances the flavor of food, true believers enhance the environments around them with their righteous character and lifestyle. When an individual is characterized by the fruit of a genuine Christian (meekness, mercy, purity of heart, etc.), that person’s presence deters sin and makes life around them beautiful. In short, you will tangibly feel the effects of a faithful believer in a social setting.
As light illuminates a dark environment, believers illuminate the world’s darkness by pointing to Christ. Just as hilltop cities and lamps provide vision and direction to others, believers’ lifestyles and words proclaim God’s truth to a lost and hopeless world (Matthew 5:14-15). Every relationship and interaction become a gateway to share the Good News of eternal life.
Of course, the tension of the Christian life is to remain in the world while not becoming of the world (John 17:14-16). As salt loses its flavor when mixed with other minerals, believers who are not attentive can easily be corrupted by the environments they are trying to reach. And Jesus gives the strongest warning possible against such compromise: “if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (Matthew 5:13). There is no greater omen.
The Christian calling is by no means an easy task. It involves balancing both boldness in sharing and vigilance against compromise. It requires begging God for wisdom and dependence on Him for grace. But the Great Commission is our calling nonetheless. And whether we end up living 20, or 40, or 80 years on this earth, may we end our earthly lives being faithful to our calling.