WHERE IS THE SALT?
Anna Hazare and yoga guru Ram Dev have stirred up the whole nation with their campaigns against corruption. Christians have always been against corruption, but only in their personal life and conduct. Our pulpits have resounded with sermons about not giving bribes, and mostly Christians have refused to do so. We have been a people who are personally and privately moral. But that is just not good enough.
Our Lord said to all who follow Him, "You are the salt of the earth" (Matt.5: 13). He said that salt that loses its saltiness is absolutely good for nothing.
But we have lost our saltiness. We have not got angry about corruption. We have, of course, been privately angry, or voiced our anger to a close circle of folks, about frustrations we have faced due to corruption. But we have been publicly peaceful and not waged war against corruption. As German pastor-theologian Helmut Thielicke pointed out, we seem to behave as though our Lord called us to be honeypots that are to spread sweetness, instead of being salty as salt ought to be.
Scripture commands us, "Be angry, and do not sin" (Eph.4: 26). We gloss over the first part of that command, and have tended to concentrate on the second bit, as though the only way anger is not sinful is when we give it up at the end of the day. However, the fact that we are commanded to be angry, should mean that a failure to be angry is a sin.
This commandment about anger is sandwiched between verses that list various sins (vv. 19-25 and 28-5:18), suggesting that we ought to be angry about all the evil prevailing in our society.
Even though we talk of there being such a thing as 'righteous anger,' our subconscious thought is that all anger is somehow sinful, or at least inappropriate. That is because we have confused 'anger' with 'temper'. It's bad when our temper is short and refuses to accept reason. Temper is never justifiable, but anger is.
One reason we have failed to be salty is that we have concentrated on being the 'light of the world' (Matt.5: 14-16). Dispelling darkness and spreading light have been our essential focus in ministry. We love proclaiming that there is salvation for all in Jesus our Lord.
In the attempt to safeguard the Final Commission of our Lord (Matt. 28:18-20), Evangelicals, those who believe that the Bible is Godís inspired Word and the only authoritative guide for Christian belief and practice, have lost sight of the fact that the Great Commission did not annul any of the things He stood for and taught before that. As a result, we have neglected issues of justice.
During the days of our Lordís incarnation, Pharisees were the Evangelicals of that age. They were the believers of that time. What He said then to Pharisees, He would still say to todayís Pharisees, us believers. When they were pietistic about religion, Jesus said that without neglecting piety, Pharisees should have done justice, shown mercy, and stayed faithful (23:23).
Not only have we not really stood for justice and goodness, we have even been guilty of allowing corruption to worm its way into our midst. Once known as 'mission institutions,' today there are schools and colleges that take bribes. No doubt, it is some clerk or accountant who takes the bribes, but almost always there is suspicion that the head of the institution is getting a cut out of it all. The tales of injustice and corruption are too many for us to ignore.
Even where bribes are not taken, Christian institutions have failed to use their prestige and influence, to resist demands for bribes to get permissions for appointments of staff and sanction for legitimate programmes, nor to help their employees when they have confronted corruption in getting their dues from government departments. There is such a thing as institutional strength and there has been a failure to make use of it. Heads of institutions are guilty of choosing the easy way of giving in to pressure to get a job done. They have forgotten that for Christians it is not just about getting jobs done, but how they are done.
Being salt comes before being the light in this dark world. That is the order in which Scripture records what Jesus taught (Matt.5: 13-16). If we fail to salt the earth, we will not light the world well.
"Where there is no vision, people perish," says the Word of God (Pro.29: 18, KJV). Those who see the Lord are supposed to serve as eyes for everyone. But when the eyes fail the body, the darkness is terrible (Matt.6: 22-23). The moral failure in society is the failure of the salt. It failed to arrest corruption.