In 64 AD, the city of Rome was burned by Emperor Nero. “Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called ‘Chrestians’ by the populace” (Tacitus, Annals, 15.44). The reports of what Nero had done to this group of Christians are too disturbing to mention.
Can you imagine what it must have been like to be a Christian family in Rome during this time? Christian families might have gone into hiding, fled to other cities, left the country, or, maybe, some remained in the city. Imagine, if somehow, we were able to talk with one of these families. The father or mother might tell us that it feels like their world, their country, and their city, is falling apart, decaying, rotting! They might speak of how dark the world feels to them and how they didn’t know where to go or what to do. You might even feel the same way about our current world, country, or city today.
However, with time on our side, we could tell this Roman Christian family that in 300 years, Rome would make Christianity the state religion and that in close to 2000 years, there would be thousands and thousands of crosses adorning Rome. The crosses would no longer be seen as punishment and cruelty, but a reminder of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We could tell them that millions and millions of people now gather each week to worship Jesus as their savior all around the world, in every country and every language.
How could this be? What could have changed? It seems that the early followers of Jesus, the early disciples, took seriously the teachings of Jesus and the commands of Jesus and over time, it changed the world. One of the teachings these early followers of Jesus took to heart and lived into is found in Matthew 5, also known as the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus called his followers, then and now, to be two things: salt and light.
“You are the salt of the earth.” When Jesus told his followers they are salt, everybody in the audience knew what he meant. Salt was a preservative, a substance, added to food that would prevent decomposition. When there is no preservative, things decompose, things rot, things stink. We are the preservative of the earth, and if we don’t preserve, the world utterly decomposes, culture rots, society stinks. “You are the light of the world.” You bring light to dark places and illuminate truth, goodness, mercy, grace and love. You reveal paths, you bring light and life to places that are unseen, and the light shines in such a way that outsiders “may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
My family recently attended a surprise birthday party for a Heritage student at an outdoor roller rink. When the time was right, we all hid and waited for the guest of honor to arrive. The surprise went off without a hitch! Before the meal was served, we prayed and gave thanks for God over the sound system and everyone ate, roller skated, fell down a lot, laughed, took pictures and had a tremendous night. We offered cake to the staff and cleaned up as best we could. As the last items were loaded into trunks and mini-vans, I happened to catch a beautiful conversation that will stick with me forever. The owner of the roller rink approached the father of the birthday girl and said, “Thank you! We host a lot of groups here and you all were so different. There is something about you all that was special and good.”
That night, at a roller rink, a bunch of Christian homeschooling families were, probably unwittingly, salt and light to a dark world. This world needs God, and He has called us to live differently in such a way that we can’t help but reflect the light of Christ. The good, the holy, the truth, the way, and the life need to be preserved in this world for God’s glory. The lost and those walking in darkness need the light of Jesus Christ to shine brightly through us and our families for the Kingdom of God.
We don’t know what will happen in 300 years. We don’t know what will happen in 2000 years. But we can be salt and light in a world where people will see our good works and glorify our father in heaven.
God bless you this November!
Rev. Mike Sedgwick