Pass the salt
By Mark Batterson
A few years ago our family went to see a baseball game at
Camden Yards in Baltimore. Around the fifth inning it started to lightly
sprinkle. As I looked up at the stadium lights, I could actually see the
individual raindrops falling. I’m not sure what possessed me, but I stood up
and started spontaneously dodging raindrops in super slow motion. It was
amazing. At least it was to me.
So I’m dodging raindrops, entertaining myself, when I looked
over at the third base side of the field. It was like a cloudburst. At first I
chuckled at the wet people running for cover, but it didn’t take long for the
monsoon to cross the infield. Long story short, we got soaking wet.
Think of culture as rain. You can try to dodge culture, but
it’s like dodging raindrops in a torrential downpour. I guess the Amish are
semisuccessful at maintaining their 19th-century lifestyle void of cultural
influences, but most of us don’t live in Lancaster, Pa.
Culture is influencing all of us all the time. You can’t
listen to the radio or go to the movies without ingesting culture. You can’t
flip channels or drive down the highway without inhaling culture. Culture is
the fish tank we live in.
So here’s the challenge we face as Christ-followers. Romans
12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world” (NIV).
James 1:27 warns us against being “polluted by the world.” And Philippians 2:15
calls us to stay “blameless and pure” in “a crooked and depraved generation.”
That’s easier said than done.
How do you keep from conforming to “the pattern of this
world” when you work in a dog-eat-dog work environment? How do you keep from
being “polluted by the world” when you’re surrounded by media that blaspheme
what you believe in? And how do you stay “blameless and pure” when our cultural
curators constantly move moral boundaries?
First things first.
We live in a culture where it is wrong to say something is
wrong. And that’s wrong. I’d rather be biblically correct than politically
correct. So we need to stand against what is wrong.
C.S. Lewis said, “Courage is not just one of the virtues,
but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” We need to grow a backbone.
We need the moral courage to do what’s right even if everybody else is doing
what’s wrong! And we need the courage to be countercultural.
But we can’t just be against what’s wrong. We need to be for what’s right.
I’m concerned that the church is better known for what we’re
against than what we’re for. And that needs to change. To paraphrase the old
adage: We can’t just curse the darkness; we need to light some candles.
I believe there are two kinds of people in the world:
conformers and transformers. Either you will influence culture or culture will
influence you. It’s one or the other.
In Matthew 5:13, Jesus calls us to be transformers: “You are
the salt of the earth.”
I read somewhere there are more than 14,000 uses for salt.
The uses include the melting of ice, fertilizing agricultural fields, making
soap and softening water. So Jesus is making a kaleidoscopic statement. But the
two primary functions of salt are preservation and seasoning.
As salt, we’re called to stop cultural decay and add flavor.
How? By offering better alternatives! In the words of Michelangelo: “Criticize
by creating.” Let’s not just boycott what’s wrong. Let’s celebrate what’s
right. Paul didn’t boycott the thinkers of Athens’ Areopagus. He went
toe-to-toe with the greatest philosophical minds in the ancient world and
competed for the truth.
Jesus was a carpenter long before He became an itinerant
preacher. I’m convinced He pursued artistic excellence in that occupation. I’ve
always been inspired by Dorothy Sayers’ observation: “No crooked table legs or
ill-fitted drawers, I daresay, ever came out of the Carpenter’s shop in
Our coffeehouse on Capitol Hill, Ebenezers, was recently
voted the No. 1 coffeehouse in the metro-D.C. area by AOL CityGuide. And we
celebrated that honor because we believe that excellence honors God. For what
it’s worth, we built a coffeehouse instead of a church building because Jesus
didn’t just hang out at the synagogue; He also hung out at wells. Wells were
natural gathering places in ancient culture. As I see it, coffeehouses are
postmodern wells. We have hundreds of customers seven days a week. We also hold
two of our eight services on Saturday night in our performance space. So we not
only serve coffee, we also serve Christ.
So what is God calling you to do? How can you shape culture?
What difference can you make?
In his book Roaring Lambs, Bob Briner says we need to send
Christians into the culture-shaping professions of entertainment, journalism,
education and politics with a missionary-like zeal. Briner envisions “a whole
generation who will lay claim to these careers with the same vigor and
commitment that sent men like Hudson Taylor to China.”
Christians ought to be producing the best movies and the
best music. We ought to be writing the best books. We ought to be creating the
best art. Why? Because we have an amazing advantage. His name? The Holy Spirit.
He doesn’t just want to anoint pastors. He wants to anoint teachers and politicians
and businessmen and journalists and artists. And He doesn’t just work on
Sundays. He’s on call Monday to Friday when we’re at our 9-to-5. He’s waiting
to come alongside us on Saturdays, too. He’s there 24/7.
MARK BATTERSON, author of In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy
Day, recently released his second book, Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure
of Pursuing God. He is also the pastor of National Community Church (AG) in
Washington, D.C., and blogs at MarkBatterson.com.
TPExtra: Read the first chapter of Wild Goose
Chase by Mark Batterson.
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