Why There Isn’t More Evil (4)
“You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5.13, 14
Oh, that My people would listen to Me,
That Israel would walk in My ways!
I would soon subdue their enemies,
And turn My hand against their adversaries.
The haters of the Lord would pretend submission to Him,
But their fate would endure forever. Psalm 81.13-15
The problem that arises when a generation of Christians pursues a mainly personal faith, is that the power of faith to cause the goodness of God to flourish in the field of the world is stifled. Instead of rivers of living water welling up within believers and their churches, to overflow in all manner of good works in the larger community, believers become content merely to be happy in Jesus, and their churches become only a haven of safety against the growing presence of tares everywhere.
In such a situation – the situation in which we find ourselves in many parts of the Christian world today – Christians are content merely to enjoy worshiping together, fellowshipping with their Christian friends, and participating in programs and activities that demand little of them and accomplish little for the progress of Christ’s Kingdom.
Yet all the images Jesus held out to His followers were images of power and transformation, to encourage disciples to seek the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit in all their relationships, roles, and responsibilities. Were Christians more active and more determined on Jesus’ agenda, rather than their own, we might see even less evil in the world than at present.
As it is, the Christian presence as salt, light, and leaven does exert a restraining power on the narcissistic and materialistic pursuits of our secular age.
Images of influence
We mentioned that the presence in the world of millions of true and sincere Christians, men and women who, in their personal lives, strive to live in goodness and love, means that there are just that many people who are not giving in to every wicked or evil thought or inclination.
The one who objects to the Gospel because it doesn’t answer well the question of why there is so much evil in the world must be asked to consider whether there might not be more evil if there were fewer – or no – people who believed the Gospel.
He needs further to consider the powerful effects such people have had over the course of human history. It is not without good reason that the Lord uses images of salt, light, and leaven to describe His people and their presence in the world. These are all images of influence, which by their very nature affect whatever is around them, making things better, brighter, and more wholesome and good by their influence upon them, and making even those who do not believe in God “pretend submission” to Him, for their own good.
Let’s look at just one example of the influence Christians can have in their world.
William Wilberforce was a sickly, diminutive man of modest means, who lived in the early years of the 19th century. Wilberforce devoted his life to two causes: the abolition of slavery and the reform of culture and manners in England. No small tasks, those, especially since the British economy of Wilberforce’s day depended on the slave trade, and the morals familiar throughout the cities of England can perhaps best be described as scandalous and cruel.
For the whole of his adult life Wilberforce shone the light of truth on the disgusting, degrading conditions in the slave trade, and the morals of the land. Acting like a moral preservative, like salt in pork, he drew others into his orbit and affected their lives for good. Not all the people who joined were Christians, or became Christians, but they saw in Wilberforce’s passion and conviction a place where they, too, could make a contribution for good.
Gradually he developed a movement of like-minded friends, a movement which, like leaven in dough, spread throughout all of England and affected every city and town. The results were predictable: slavery was abolished and a moral revolution of national proportions swept England, ushering in many laudable moral and cultural improvements.
Wilberforce’s story can be multiplied by myriads of other examples of believers from every age who, determined to be a force for lovingkindness and goodness, have overthrown tyrants, alleviated suffering, changed uncivil laws, rebuilt communities, and rescued millions from hunger, squalor, and other degrading forms of life.
By banding together and practicing service and persuasion, Christians by their influence have been throughout history a major reason why there is not more evil in the world. Our secular, narcissistic age needs such a movement of influential believers once again. Let us take up the mantle previous generations have worn, and strive to become salt, light, and leaven in our own parts of the Lord’s field.
1. How do salt, light, and leaven act in the material world to preserve and transform? Why are these good images for thinking as our calling to God’s Kingdom and glory?
2. When such transforming agents do not exist, what should we expect in the field of the world? How can you see that this is precisely what we’re experiencing in our day?
3. What does it mean for you to be salt, light, and leaven in your own Personal Mission Field? And if you refuse, or fail to take up this calling?
Next steps – Conversation: Talk with some fellow Christians about the life of transformation. How can believers encourage one another to think and living transformingly in their own spheres?
Jesus Christ rules the world in truth and grace – the world, and everything in it. From His throne in heaven, He is advancing His Kingdom and God’s economy of love. You can read about this – and your calling in this great plan – by ordering a copy of our book, The Kingship of Jesus (click here).
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.