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Who Will Make Us Salty Again?

In 1 Peter 2:9-10, and in Matthew 5:14-16, and in Philippians 2:14-15, we are told that, having received mercy, having been given the role of light (in a world that so desperately needs it), and having God at work within us—we are to see ourselves as royalty. But how should being royalty make us act?

A Christmas tradition I’m religious about keeping is watching the classic 1940s film, It’s a Wonderful Life. In one memorable scene, an elderly man overhears two of the main characters falling in love. As George ends a vivid monologue by asking, “Am I talking too much?” the unexpected answer of “YES!” comes, not from Mary, but from the elderly man who’s been watching them from his porch in the background. The man then challenges George to kiss her, and goes on to give his famous line, “Aww—Youth is wasted on the wrong people!”

Even though God has given us a special status in his kingdom, too often our blessedness is a wasted commodity in the world!

This winter, as I was reflecting on the role of our royalty as Christians in advancing justice, I came to the conclusion that Christian royalty may be wasted on the wrong people—and that, even though God has given us a special status in his kingdom, too often our blessedness is a wasted commodity in the world!

What really triggered this line of thinking was the following question and answer by Christopher Wright:

“If human beings are meant to function as kings within creation, then what kind of king is God? We need to know the answer in order to be able to say what it means for humanity as God’s image to behave as king within creation.

 

“[In Psalm 145] we discover that the reign of God in creation is characterized by wisdom, power, goodness, grace, compassion, faithfulness, generosity, provision, protection, justice and love. If that is what it means for God to act as king, then the same qualities should be seen in the way we who are made in God’s image exercise the dominion that God has entrusted to us” (The Mission of God’s People, 2010, p.51).

These are timely words which run counter to the way today’s kings and presidents, prime ministers, and the “Haves” of the 21st Century—even we ourselves—speak, think, and act. Rather than create bridges, so that resources can meet the needs of the world’s neediest, Christendom in the West puts up barriers.

We judge on the basis of political correctness. We are obese consumers unwilling to give up those things that we’ve ‘earned’ or are ‘entitled to.’ We show little concern for the incarcerated. We’re disingenuous about hosting people who are genuinely falling through cracks—we prevent them from living off the fat of our prosperity, and are unlikely to give a glass of cold water to the thirsty people that we pass every day.

We make plans to reach unreached people groups with the Gospel and commend ourselves for it, all the while failing to reflect on our own practices of real justice and generosity.

In fact, we make plans to reach unreached people groups with the Gospel and commend ourselves for it, all the while failing to reflect on our practices of real justice and generosity. We fantasize about how this week’s special offering at church will go to lobby for the rights of others and for the fair distribution of resources, and that’s the end of it. Deacons and para-church ministries are the extent of our practice. It’s high time we stopped calling ourselves royalty—the people who shine God’s light in the dark.

But there are people on whom such Christ-like royalty is not wasted.

This week, I had the opportunity to visit and hear stories about the experiences of my new friend, Pastor Romani, and of one of my North American colleagues who also works in the Middle East. They both have ministries among marginalized people—one with Syrian Muslim refugees in a satellite city of Cairo, the other in the company of wives and daughters of Christian garbage collectors in an urban dump.

Both practice ministries of presence, involving their friendship and availability, while also addressing a few of the pressing needs of the people they serve. Both get invited into homes, chided into staying for a meal, and asked with all the warmth of a close relative to stay the night with the ‘recipients’ of their ministry—who, by every standard, are politically and economically at the edge of instability compared to my two friends.

The marginalized are able to demonstrate kingly qualities that ‘kings’ of the earth often fail to portray.

But—surprise surprise—these ‘poor’ people are able to express a kind of self-sacrificial, unfeigned love toward others. In so doing, they shine like stars in the darkness, and bring glory to God.

The marginalized are able to demonstrate kingly qualities that ‘kings’ of the earth often fail to portray.

They’re worthy of being called royalty.

But here’s the clincher: As I listened to my friends’ stories, and witnessed their relationships with the people they serve, I could not help but notice that as the two of them are regularly smothered in the hospitality of the “Have-Nots,” they are becoming increasingly comfortable with living among those same “Have-Nots,” and are less and less comfortable spending time with shallow, selfish, complaining, and critical-spirited “Haves”—those whom they used to hang out with more. Not only that, but both of my friends consider their times with the “Have-Nots” to be the true highlight of their weeks, AND, they are beginning to become infected with that same spirit of royalty they are witnessing—their actions and interests are shifting toward being generous, protectors, providers, and true friends of the poor: Kings.

The process was simple. The effect seems thorough. I recommend it to you. Let the poor of the earth teach you what real saltiness looks like. It will make it much easier to live up to the royalty you are.

[Image: Pexels]

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