People recognise Christianity at its best when they see the followers of Jesus serving people and giving generously of themselves to others.
Jesus famously told his followers that they should be like two things – salt and light. Salt was mainly used in Jesus’ time as a preservative. Jesus seemed to be telling his followers to be absorbed completely into their society, influencing it for good. In response to this command of Jesus, his followers have always involved themselves in work that improves the lives of those who are lonely, poor or vulnerable.
The light that Jesus had in mind when he used his metaphor was the light of a town, which guided travellers by night on a hazardous road. In response to this, Christians have always been involved in campaigning more visibly on behalf of those who are treated unjustly, and in seeking the highest ethical standards for society, for the workplace and for everywhere else that people live and relate.
In a society in which loneliness is increasingly significant, Christianity is marked by the way it brings people into community. In a church that is being effective, people find encouragement, friendship, help when they are in need, and a place in which their skills can serve others. (Regrettably, in churches which are ineffective people can find duty and boredom.) In one of the letters that has been preserved in the New Testament, a church is described as a place to ‘consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds’.
In places where this is put into practice, belonging to a church is something that enriches all the days of the week, not just the time when a service is taking place. The shared sense of purpose impacts on everything that a Christian does at work, home and leisure. Being aware that colleagues and neighbours are loved by God means seeing them with kinder eyes. Work and leisure become ways of increasing the amount of joy in a world alive with possibilities because of God’s presence. It is as if actions are taken and life is lived not to please other men and women, but to serve Jesus Christ.
What the Bible says about it
An extract from the Bible:
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Where to find it:
About these words:
Words of Jesus from his famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’.
And they said…
Dan Walker, BBC television presenter:
Christians do not need to go with the flow. We are meant to be counter cultural. We [attract people] by showing the difference God makes in our lives.
Pope Francis, leader of the Roman Catholic denomination:
Goodness always tends to spread. If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good.
David Lammy, Member of Parliament for Tottenham from 2000:
Without a husband my mother fought desperately to hold her family together. Faith was a reason for her children to shun some of the tempting shortcuts offered by street culture and drugs.
St Teresa of Avila, 1515-1582, Spanish nun:
Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which is to look out Christ’s compassion for the world; yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good; yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.
William Booth, 1829-1912, founder of the Salvation Army:
While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight. While little children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight. While men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight. While there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight. I’ll fight to the very end!
At a certain point, I just felt, you know, God is not looking for alms, God is looking for action.