Why I’m Here

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

Matthew 5: 13-16 (The Message)

I cherish those times when I come across something so wonderful that I just need to stop what I’m doing and take it all in for a while. Many of those moments have been when I’m outdoors on a trek.  But a few weeks back I came across this particular translation of the well-known passage in the Bible about being salt and light in the world.  It’s been at the fore of my mind most days recently as I ponder the ramifications.

First, I find Jesus charge to us to bring out the God-flavors and God-colors in our world a wonderfully positive and exciting purpose. Allen Wakabayashi has written a book called “Kingdom Come: How Jesus Wants to Change the World.” In it he stresses that Jesus came to bring a new kingdom here on earth and it is happening now.  That is the good news he brings. This passage in Matthew is a wonderful reminder that our purpose is to help others taste and see this transformation of our world that is underway.

Second, this passage has been a challenge to me, pushing me to rethink what I see as the new kingdom. If our financial and political systems are on the verge of collapse, perhaps these aren’t the God-flavors and God-colors we imagine them to be. Political leaders have often championed the U.S. as the shining city, the beacon-on-the-hill. Often it is in the context that we have lost our way under the current leadership, but under their new leadership – and they often add with God’s help – we will reclaim our national status as lamp bearer.  But maybe our monocultural society, one that is the creation of a predominately white, male, western, and global northern world view, is an idol that has ruined our saltiness.

Maybe the God-flavors and God-colors are being done through those challenging our racialized systems, works being done on the small scale at a local level. They are works that are done in grace and by grace.  They are works that are person-centered, building the dignity of all.  These works treat difference as a resource.  But they are also based on the assumption that we are all one body — we are individuals that represent different parts of the body, not lone-wolfs. The God-flavors and God-colors are the activities that work to build up the whole body to the benefit of all. Speaking from experience, overdeveloped muscles in one part of the body can result in crippling pain while a balanced development allows the body to take active part in a wide-range of fulfilling activities.

Look around, there’s a new kingdom being created. If we’re not seeing it, maybe we need to take the log out of our own eyes, change our lenses, and find a guide who can help us to set upon a new path of discovery.

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