INSIGHTS FROM BONHOEFFER AND LEWIS ON THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
The Invasion of the Kingdom
With the exception of Switzerland, I know of few countries which are not determined to promote their culture and their lifestyle, and to extend their boundaries. It is the nature of countries and kingdoms not only to feel good about themselves but also to think that what works in their country will work everywhere else as well. Alexander the Great was not content with just lording himself over Macedonia. He was intent on expanding the borders of his empire all the way from Greece in the north to Egypt in the southwest to the borders of India in the southeast. Rome was not content to rule simply over a few villages on the Tiber River; it felt destined to rule the Mediterranean world.
The other night I was watching a documentary on Susan Boyle, the middle-aged Scottish singer who emerged from absolute obscurity to become the leading vocalist in 2010 (she is the first person since the Beatles to have had two consecutive albums make it to #1 in the same year). In the documentary, Susan heads to China for the finale of China's Got Talent. The China on display was not the China I was thinking existed. It is a dynamic country. It is definitely a country which desires peace as it pursues its aggressive agenda of global economic domination. It understands the invasive element in nation-building.
The kingdom of heaven is like the kingdoms of this world in this one respect: it too acts as an invasion force. According to Jesus, how powerful will its invasion be (Matt. 16:18)?
What promise does John give us about the end of history (Rev. 11:15)?
What promise does John give us about the end of history (Rev. 11:15)?
SALT OF THE EARTH (Matt. 5:13)
You are the salt of the earth,
but if the salt has become tasteless, with what can it be made salty?
It is no longer good for anything
except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men..
Jesus uses 2 metaphors to highlight the invasive element in the kingdom of heaven and in its citizens. The first invasive element of Christianity is found in the metaphor of salt. Christianity IS a fighting religion. Unfortunately, we too often fight for the wrong things: we fight others if they don't agree with us religiously, politically, etc. There are several good wars, though, which the Christian needs to fight: the war for the souls of men, the fight against poverty, ignorance, and other social injustices, such as, human trafficking, slavery, abortion, etc.
Jesus first declares that we are the salt of the earth. Few of us today appreciate how valuable salt was in the first century. We are constantly told by our doctors to limit our salt intake in order to lower our blood pressure. Yet we hear phrases like "worth your weight in salt" and wonder what that could possible mean. The fact is that in the Roman Empire, soldiers many times were often paid with the currency of "salt." In fact, the word "salary" comes from the Latin word "salarium 'salary, stipend,' originally "soldier's allowance for the purchase of salt,'" (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=salary).The declaration of the Christian as being salt stresses the value of the Christian in the world: he is vitally important for the world.
In what sense is the Christian valuable, so valuable that Jesus calls him the salt of the earth? Whatever else salt does, it penetrates, invades, and enhances the flavor of foods. Naturally, whatever else is true about the Christian being salt, he is not salt unless he truly belongs to Jesus and allows Jesus to live His life through him. Lewis' comment on this is wonderful:
It is something like that with Christ and us. The more we get what we now call "ourselves" out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of "little Christs," all different, will still be too few to express Him fully. He made them all. He invented—as an author invents characters in a novel—all the different men that you and I were intended to be. In that sense our real selves are all waiting for us in Him. It is no good trying to 'be myself' without Him."
Or again: "Imagine a lot of people who have always lived in the dark. You come and try to describe to them what light is like. You might tell them that if they come into the light the same light would fall on them all and they would reflect it and thus become what we call visible.
Is it not quite possible that they would imagine that, since they are all receiving the same light, and all reacting to it in the same way (i.e., all reflecting it), they would all look alike? Whereas you and I know that the light will in fact bring out, or show up, how different they are" (Lewis, MC, Book 4, Chapter 11).
This world is or at least SHOULD be a better place because of the Christian living in it. The Christian who has been salted by Christ in turn salts or invades the world. Look at some of the ways Christianity has invaded the world successfully:
As Christ in us betters our lives, so should we who are Christ-filled serve as salt and make better the lives of those around us.
LIGHT OF THE WORLD (Matt. 5:14-16)
You are the light of the world.
A city cannot be hidden situated on a hill;
nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a bushel but on the lampstand.
And it lights all who are in the house.
Thus let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works
and glorify your Father who is in heaven..
According to John 8:12 what does Christ declare Himself to be?
Because of Christ living in them, Christ's disciples too are to be the light of the world.
There are 2 ideas behind the word "light" when applied to Christians. The first is that of revealing. The light reveals objects in a darkened room. Whom did Jesus reveal when He was on earth (John 14:9)?
In the same way, by his words and deeds the Christian is to reveal Christ in the world.
The second element in the idea of light is "goodness." Because God is Light, He not only reveals, He also is good (1 John 5:1-10). Jesus will combine both those elements in Matt. 5:16—"Let your LIGHT SHINE [reveal] in such a good way that they may SEE your GOOD works [goodness]."
The question now becomes: how much effort does salt have to expend in order to "invade" the meat? How much effort does light have to make in order to invade the darkness?
Notice that it takes NO EFFORT for salt to "invade" the meat or for light to "invade" the darkness. It is the very nature of salt to invade the meat and for light to invade the darkness. On the other hand, it takes effort to keep the salt and the light from working. Something unnatural has to happen to it; for example, to keep light from invading the darkness, you have to hide the lampstand under a bushel. The same thing holds true with the Christian. Because of the Spirit of Christ within him, he has to make great efforts to keep Christ from operating in him and through him. The most natural thing in the world for the Christian is for Christ to work through him; the most unnatural thing in the world for the Christian is for Christ NOT to work through him. If the Christian is not an invasive force in the world, it is not Christ's fault; it is totally the fault of the Christian. Jesus seems to be stressing this one point when He informs the disciples, "You SHALL be My witnesses", not "I hope you will be My witnesses", not "There's a possibility you will be My witnesses", but "You SHALL be My witnesses." Only the squelching of the Spirit in our lives--something we are VERY capable of doing--will prevent us being His witnesses.
It is not only natural to share Christ with others, it is joyous. In 1998 we launched the F.A.I.T.H. evangelistic program at our church. We would first meet for a time of training and then go out in the community to do door-to-door cold turkey evangelism. I remember the staff sitting out in front of some apartments feeling somewhat intimidated by what we were about to do. If we had voted on it, I think we would have all voted “no” on the program. It was much different after we went witnessing. When we started doing what the Holy Spirit wanted us to do, we felt so much joy afterwards. Why? Because He gave us His joy, something He truly wishes to lavish upon us . . . a joy which He can only lavish upon us whenever we are following HIS agenda and not ours.
At this point some Christians make the fatal mistake of claiming that because they share Christ by means of their lives, they don't have to share Christ by means of their word. They don't have to witness verbally; they just do it with their lives.
Dr. Hendrix, professor of Dallas Theological Seminary, related the story of a man who believed that his Christ-like life was enough to lead others to Christ. Instead of telling people verbally he was a Christian, he let his life tell them. One day a young man in his office shared with him that he had just become a Christian. The older Christian began rejoicing that the younger man had just been saved. The younger man wheeled around and turned on the older man. He told him that the only reason he had not become a Christian earlier was that the older man gave the impression you could live a wonderful life without Jesus. By not sharing verbally Jesus with the younger man, the older man had actually kept the younger man away from Jesus. It takes both words and actions.
AND NOW FROM BONHOEFFER: From the Visible Community
"But now Jesus calls them the salt of the earth--salt, the most indispensable necessity of life. The disciples, that is to say, are the highest good, the supreme value which the earth possesses, for without them it cannot live. They are the salt that sustains the earth, for their sake the world ______________, yes, for the sake of these, the poor, the ignoble and weak, whom the world rejects. In casting out the disciples the earth is destroying its own _______________. And yet, wonder of wonders, it is for the sake of the outcasts that the earth is allowed to _______________. The 'divine salt,' as Homer called it, maintains itself by fulfilling its proper function. It penetrates the whole earth, and by it the earth subsists. . . . It is to be noted that Jesus calls not himself, but his disciples the salt of the earth, for he _______________ his work on earth to them. . . . 'Ye ________ the salt.' Jesus does not say, 'You __________ be the salt.' It is not for the disciples to decide whether or not they will be the salt of the earth, for they are so whether they like it or not, they have been made salt by the call they have received. Again, it is: 'Ye are the salt,' not 'Ye _________ the salt.'
Of course there is another possibility—the salt may lose its savour and cease to be salt at all. It just stops working. Then it is indeed good for nothing but to be thrown away. That is the peculiar quality of salt. Everything else needs to be seasoned with salt, but once the salt itself has lost its savour, it can never be salted again. Everything else can be saved by salt, however bad it has gone--only salt which loses is savour has no hope of recovery. That is the other side of the picture. That is the judgement which always hangs over the apostolic community, whose mission is to save the world, but which, if it ceases to live up to that mission, is itself irretrievably lost. The call of Jesus Christ means either that we are the salt of the earth, or else we are _________________; either we follow the call or we are crushed beneath it. There is no question of a second chance."
It is in this light that the good works of the disciples are meant to be seen. Men are not to see the disciples but their good works, says Jesus. And these works are none other than those which the Lord Jesus himself has created in them by calling them to be the light of the world under the shadow of the ________________. The good works are ________________, peregrination [walking about on foot], meekness, peaceableness, and finally persecution and _______________. All these good works are a bearing of the ________________ of Jesus Christ."