why are we settling for this?

Gauguin, "Swineherd", Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Gauguin, “Swineherd”, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Matthew 5:13-20
For Sunday, February 9, 2014
Fifth Sunday After The Ephiphany

You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”  (Matt. 5:14)  I may be alone in this, but too often I’m not seeing it and not feeling it.  Instead, what I see and feel is more like, “You are a subculture of Bible thumpers that no one really likes or wants to be around.”

One book that does a good job of seeking to understand this is UnChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.  The book argues that we’ve earned the perception that we’re judgmental, anti-homosexual, and hypocritical because we’ve been too much like the Pharisees and too little like Jesus.  What we need to do is get into the world and love those that are in it.  I agree (which by the way is why this blog is entitled “Church in the World“).

The reality of the gospel is that we are the light of the world.  So how do we go about being this and enjoying it?  Jesus tells us: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

A good friend of mine told me this week about the challenge he’s facing at his office.  His boss is laser focused on production.  You don’t produce, you’re out.  One colleague returned to his desk recently to find a piece of paper on his desk indicating just this.  He was shocked and so was the rest of the office.  They all work under great stress and fear as a result.   My friend said, “I’ve talked to my boss.  I told him that if he really wants to be an effective leader he needs Jesus.”

On the one hand I admired my friends courage.  He was willing to put his faith on the line.  He witnessed to his boss.  That’s what we’re supposed to do, right?  One problem: it’s not what Jesus had in mind in Matthew 5.  Jesus said, “that they may see your good deeds, not “that they may hear your good words.”

What if we led with our deeds rather than our words?  This is the approach Jesus himself used so often.  Another book I really like, Mike Metzger’s Sequencing, provides a practical and powerful way for us to do this.  Metzger suggests that the Christian story – Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration – can be distilled into four simple words: ought, is, can, will.

What if my friend in the oppressive office, instead of leading with an invitation for his boss to follow Christ started a conversation with his colleagues about what kind of place his office ought to be.  Certainly it ought to be a place that is profitable.  This is where his boss is strong. Yet it also ought to be a place where people feel safe, where they can grow, and where they want to come to work.   The conversation could then move to why this isn’t the case presently.  It could then move to what could be done to change it, and what would result if those changes were implemented. I challenged my friend, “Why are you settling for this?  You know that your office could be both more profitable, which is what your boss wants, and more inviting, which is what everyone wants.”

The reason the gospel is so powerful is that it aligns us with reality and allows us to move forward in a way that restores everything around us, not only spiritually, but also materially and emotionally.  Why do we fail so often to recognize this and why are we so ill equipped to live this out?  I think it’s because we’ve allowed our secular culture to compartmentalize our faith.  We’ve lost hope that the authentic community we experience on Sunday mornings can be replicated at the office Monday through Friday much less at home over the course of the entire week.

Why are we settling for this?   May our light shine before everyone  around us such that they see our good deeds and come to praise our Father in heaven along with us.

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