Too many hypocrites

Sometimes people tell us that they want nothing to do with the church. The reason?  Because, so they say, there are too many hypocrites there. Many times we probably feel like saying that one more hypocrite won’t make much difference. But we haven’t, because there’s a point in what they say. The trouble is that Christians don’t always know who they are, and they don’t act accordingly.

People can tell what your relationship with God is like by watching how you treat those around you. If you put people down by insults or jokes, you may not be right with God. If you’re pushy and bossy with people, thinking you deserve certain privileges, you may not be right with God. If you argue or fight with others, you may not be right with God. If you treat people badly out of spite or revenge, you may not be right with God. If you take advantage of, or exploit others, or think you’re better than everyone else, you may not be right with God. If you put on an act in order to gain attention for yourself, you may not be right with God. Even if you do the right things with the expectation God will be good to you and give you what you want because you do the right thing, then you may not be right with God.

Now you might protest, wondering how anyone could possibly say that you’re not right with God. You might want to say Jesus died for you, and therefore, through his sacrifice, you’re now right with God. And that’s correct! You are saved freely for Christ’s sake through faith. You don’t make yourself right with God through your actions, but are made right with God through trusting Jesus.

However, as a result of this saving faith, as a result of receiving God’s undeserving forgiveness, as a result of being joined to the holy body of Jesus through baptism, as a result of having Jesus’ blood course through your veins through your participation at the Lord’s Supper, you would naturally live in peace and love with those around you. If you don’t, then God, and those around you, could easily argue you may not be right with God because they don’t see his love reflected in your living. Christians need to be genuine. They dare not be a phony or a hypocrite. The world is quite right in judging the truth of Jesus by the sort of people faith in Jesus is able to produce.

So the question for us, as Christians, is this: what are we?

The answer to that question comes from Jesus. In the first two verses of today’s Gospel he said, that we are salt and light!  Listen carefully! Jesus does not say you ought to be salt, or that you should be light, but rather “You are salt . . . You are light.” What a tremendous saying! After all, what Jesus is saying is this: “You disciples standing here before me—you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.”

Let’s look at what it means that we are “the salt of the earth”. The ancient world felt that there was nothing more useful than salt and light. Salt was seen as indispensable. A bag of salt was reckoned to be as precious as a person’s life. They believed that without salt, human life could not be sustained. The term “salt” is used for that which is permanent, that which lasts, and also to describe a person’s worth and wisdom.

Salt’s power lies in being different from its environment. It alters what it is mixed with. We are the salt God rubs into the wounds of the world. In the context of verse 12, Jesus is saying, “You are those through whose persecution the earth will be seasoned, purified and preserved.”  Christians make the world a more palatable place to live. Like salt, we act as a leavening influence in our world. To not laugh at a cruel joke can season the atmosphere of a group. A healing factor enters in when we forgive someone who is difficult to pardon, whose actions seem unpardonable.

In Matthew Jesus also says 14 “You are the light of the world.

But in reality people; you and me can be like frogs? We can hide in the dark and people can miss seeing us or see us not as Gods Child but something jumpy and frightening. Sometimes we do not feel like Jesus’ light do we? We do things wrong, we can be nasty and cranky sometimes and we would rather not put ourselves out there. But Jesus says to his followers; to the people on the sermon on the mount, to Christians to you to me.“You are the light of the world.… Your light must shine before people”.

There is a continuous, never ceasing aspect to this. There isn’t a switch that you a believer can turn off and say, “Today or at this moment, I’m not a light.  I just want a break.  I just want to go somewhere and hide for a while”.

You are the Light to this world. You will shine a light to your world, your family, your workplace, your school, even if it is the wrong light. So even if you think you are the frog hiding in the Dark; you are not. To everyone around you, you are a child of God, you are Jesus.

It is made easier by being plugged in and switched on!

What are you talking about? You might be saying.

When we come to church, when we worship God, when we praise him, read his word, talk to him we get plugged into God. The more we do these things the more in tune we are with what God wants us to be. When we believe in Jesus as our saviour, like we announced in the creed a little while ago we have his power. Jesus gives us the power, the courage and strength to do anything. When a person is united to Christ, he or she is no longer an ordinary person. When Christ affirms us, we become strong enough to withstand anything, to “take on the world”!  Light makes growth possible. As light reveals beauty, so, too, we radiate with the joy of our salvation.

Remember salt and light become useful only when they give of themselves, when they are mixed with something else; Light goes into darkness and salt loses itself in the food. Salt remains salt if it stays in a jar and if light is kept under a bowl its light helps nobody, and what is more, it exhausts the oxygen and nothing is left but a nasty, shapeless wick.

You don’t need to be super-confident to ask your neighbour to come with you to worship. You can do it faithfully in weakness, and in fear and trembling. You don’t need to be brimming with slick ideas to teach Sunday School,  help with breakfast or Scripture. You don’t need to be comfortably sure of what to say in order to visit a fellow member in the hospital or go with the youth to visit at the nursing home. You don’t have to be financially secure, guaranteed of a surplus for life, to be a steward who tithes. You can faithfully begin in weakness. You don’t need to feel sure of your faith to begin to pray regularly for others. You can stumble over the words, praying in weakness. With day-by-day efforts like that, we make our light shine. We bring rich flavour to a tasteless society, and so become the salt of the earth.

Remember when we are plugged into God’s power supply and turned on to Jesus our light will shine. We need not worry.   The peace of God, which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ. Amen.

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