John Stott was an Anglican writer and student of the Scriptures.
Christianity Today reprinted a sermon he gave on “Four Ways Christians can influence the world.”
Then, someone asked on Twitter, and @Copticorphans retweeted: “How does this apply to Copts in Egypt?” How can Copts move “beyond mere survival” to more truly become salt and light in society around them?
Here is an excerpt from the sermon:
Beyond Mere Survival
To many of us, the verses of Matthew 5 are becoming increasingly familiar. We see their great importance today, and we begin to look at them again. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proclaims, in verse 13: “You are the salt of the earth.” Verse 14: “You are the light of the world.” Verse 16: “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father, which is in heaven” (ERV).
In both these metaphors of the salt and the light, Jesus teaches about the responsibility of Christians in a non-Christian, or sub-Christian, or post-Christian society. He emphasizes the difference between Christians and non-Christians, between the church and the world, and he emphasizes the influences Christians ought to have on the non-Christian environment. The distinction between the two is clear. The world, he says, is like rotting meat. But you are to be the world’s salt. The world is like a dark night, but you are to be the world’s light. This is the fundamental difference between the Christian and the non-Christian, the church and the world.
Then he goes on from the distinction to the influence. Like salt in putrefying meat, Christians are to hinder social decay. Like light in the prevailing darkness, Christians are to illumine society and show it a better way. It’s very important to grasp these two stages in the teaching of Jesus. Most Christians accept that there is a distinction between the Christian and the non-Christian, between the church and the world. God’s new society, the church, is as different from the old society as salt from rotting meat and as light from darkness.
But there are too many people who stop there; too many people whose whole preoccupation is with survival—that is, maintaining the distinction. The salt must retain its saltiness, they say. It must not become contaminated. The light must retain its brightness. It must not be smothered by the darkness. That is true. But that is merely survival. Salt and light are not just a bit different from their environment. They are to have a powerful influence on their environment. The salt is to be rubbed into the meat in order to stop the rot. The light is to shine into the darkness. It is to be set upon a lamp stand, and it is to give light to the environment. That is an influence on the environment quite different from mere survival.
Dr. Stott then goes on to talk about four ways Christians can influence by being salt and light: by prayer, by speaking the truth, by example, and by group solidarity.
But by prayer and group solidarity he doesn’t mean becoming more inward. He means becoming closer in our determination to influence society around us to the greatest extend possible. He says,
I think most of us, myself included, are more parochial than global in our prayers. But are we not global Christians? Do we not share the global concerns of our global God? We should express these concerns in our prayers.
You can read the full article here. But what do you think? How does this apply to Copts in Egypt, and to those of us around the world who want to support them?