Welcome to this instalment of the series, The Church and Politics. If you’ve not been following the series, please go to www.myilluminare.com/the-church-and-politics/ to read the last eight instalments.
If you’re an amateur dabbler in watercolour painting you might have come across the term, “painting by numbers”. It is the application of a specified paint colour to a specified area on a canvass. What is curious is that the life of Jesus was like painting by numbers. His was “living by numbers” or “living by prophecy.” He lived to fulfil particular prophecies. Everything he did was motivated by prophecy. As it is written, “You were not pleased with burnt offerings or other offerings for sin. Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God— as is written about me in the Scriptures.’” (Hebrews 10:5-7 NLT)
Jesus’ history was essentially fulfilment of prophecies: “He drove out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick. In this way, what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet was fulfilled: “He took our weaknesses and carried our diseases.”” (Matthew 8:16-17 NET) He healed the sick but warned them not to reveal who he was. Why? Because of a prophecy by Isaiah: “Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen, he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not fight or shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle…” (Matthew 12:15-16, 18-21 NLT) We’re also told, “When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he left Judea and returned to Galilee. He went first to Nazareth, then left there and moved to Capernaum, beside the Sea of Galilee, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This fulfilled what God said through the prophet Isaiah: “In the land of Zebulun and of Naphtali, beside the sea, beyond the Jordan River, in Galilee where so many Gentiles live, the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined.” (Matthew 4:12-16 NLT)
Jesus would go on to fulfil a staggering 353 prophecies in a space of just three years! He lived to fulfil prophecy. Everything he said, everything he did referenced prophecy. And so when he came up with that statement about Christians being salt of the earth and light of the world it’s important we trace the prophetic provenance of the statement. It must be historical. These are his exact words: “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavour? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:13-16 NLT)
Let’s look at the prophecy context. You see, salt is used in relation to covenants in scriptures. We’re told, “Abijah took a prominent position on Mount Zemaraim in the hill country of Ephraim and gave this speech: “Listen, Jeroboam and all Israel! Don’t you realize that God, the one and only God of Israel, established David and his sons as the permanent rulers of Israel, ratified by a ‘covenant of salt’…” (2 Chronicles 13:4-7 MSG) And concerning the priesthood of Aaron God said, “All the holy offerings that the People of Israel set aside for God, I’m turning over to you and your children. That’s the standard rule and includes both you and your children—a Covenant-of-Salt, eternal and unchangeable before God.” (Numbers 18:17-19 MSG) The expression, “covenant of salt” therefore refers to the sanctity and inviolability of a contract or agreement. It is for ever, cannot be amended, irrespective of the happenings of history. And so when Jesus said we’re the salt of the earth he was saying we’re symbols (icons) of God’s irrevocable covenant with mankind. We find corroboration for this in Isaiah’s messianic prophecy: “I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness. I will take you by the hand and guard you, and I will give you to my people, Israel, as a symbol of my covenant with them. And you will be a light to guide the nations.” (Isaiah 42:6 NLT) That’s where the statement made by Jesus came from. Only that Isaiah didn’t mention salt directly. He used the phrase “symbol of my covenant.” It stands for salt. Isaiah spoke about light in the same statement just as Jesus did. So we know they’re saying the same thing. Therefore we are the salt of the earth because we’re symbols of God’s social compact with mankind. That contract is inviolable. It’s why Jesus died.
When Christians cease to function in their symbolic capacity as salt of the earth Jesus says we’ve lost our essence or flavour. And salt without flavour gets trampled. It’s useless. In other words no relevance, no value. Now, Satan knows this fact. Satan reads the Bible. He famously quoted the Bible at Jesus at his temptation. (Matthew 4:5-6) That someone quotes the Bible doesn’t mean he or she is of God. Satan quotes scriptures. Satan knows that if he can get Christians focused on “spiritual” stuff to the detriment of social or political relevance they’re going to get trampled underneath literally. So he encourages irrelevant spirituality. When you’re so heavenly minded as to be earthly useless you’re going to get pushed to the fringes of society. You will be thrown out – just as Jesus said. (Matthew 5:13-16) Notice how nut jobs, crackers and unstable lunatics in Hollywood movies are usually Bible-quoting fanatics. That’s Satan branding Christians as wackos and unhinged elements out of touch with reality on the fringes of society.
But why did Jesus use that specific phrase, “salt of the earth”? Why not “salt of the sea” for instance? There were two types of salt in the days of Jesus – salt of the earth from underground salt deposits, and “salt” of the sea collected from the Dead Sea by evaporation. Even though the “salt” from the Dead Sea resembled pure salt, it wasn’t effective for preservation or seasoning. And so what Jesus was saying was, we cannot afford to be “salt” of the Dead Sea. An ineffectual Christian is salt of the Dead Sea. He’s not good for seasoning or preservation of his socio-political context. This goes beyond ethics and moral instruction. “Salt of the earth” has political, cultural, social, economic and geographic connotations. The question then is, how effectual is the Church in ameliorating the suffering of the people, in bringing about desired changes in governance? How relevant is the church in a socio-economic context?
From the prophecy quoted by Jesus about “salt of the earth” and “light of the world” four things are demanded of Christians:
- Epitomise God’s social compact with mankind
- Demonstrate God’s righteousness
- Guide the nations
- Free the captives.
That is the Christian political manifesto in essence. It’s listed in Isaiah 42:6-7. The implication is that Christians must be articulators of the ideals of society, instigate good governance, put forward policy ideas and fight for the rights of the citizenry. Without these they lose relevance.
Now, some Christians believe our only job is to evangelise and get people saved. And that is all well and good. But without national stability that feat becomes a most difficult task. No peace, no gospel of peace. If there’s war for example preaching the gospel becomes herculean. Any time there’s anarchy and mayhem Satan hinders the Word. Context determines mission feasibility.
There are three types of evangelism – retail, wholesale and policy. Retail is one to one. Wholesale is mass evangelism, like in a crusade. Policy is governmental.
Policy evangelism takes place when we deploy the principles of righteousness in a political context. It’s why the Bible says we should demonstrate God’s righteousness. (Isaiah 42:6-7) Righteousness exalts a nation. (Proverbs 14:34) It’s the duty of Christians to instigate policy righteousness in a nation. The upright dealings of the leaders will lift a nation up. The people condition will be raised when government does right by the people. What are the fundamental objectives of state policy?
Policy evangelism devolves God’s ideals, ethos and values into a political system. It is perhaps the most important form of evangelism. It provides operating context for other types of evangelism. It’s why Paul asked us to pray for peace so the gospel may be preached. (1 Timothy 2:1-4) If there’s no peace in a nation the gospel cannot be preached. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
So Christians must work to instil peace in political contexts. In practical terms this includes job creation for youths.
We continue the series next week. To read full version of The Church and Politics Part 9: Salting the Earth go to www.myilluminare.com/the-church-and-politics/
If you’ll like to receive Jesus into your life please pray this prayer: “Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Father please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.”
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