There are a variety of biblical metaphors that describe the influence that Christians are intended to have on the world around them. Jesus says that we are SALT and LIGHT (Matthew 5:13-16). He describes us as a LEAVENING AGENT (Matthew 13:33) and Paul says that we are the AROMA of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-15). Each of these images reminds us that we are the incarnational presence of Christ in the world. And if we’re paying attention at all, we will surely understand that the world is under siege.
Sometimes the darkness and degradation and despair are blatantly obvious; sometimes they are not.
Appearances can be deceptive.
Things are not always as they appear.
As we live and work and engage in our communities – whatever things look like, whatever the circumstances – we are to function in ways that enhance flavour, illuminate, elevate and provide a pleasing fragrance. In other words, we are to INFUSE CULTURE in ways that are healthy, attractive, effective, life-giving. As dye infuses the cloth or tea leaves infuse the water in the pot, we are to infuse our culture. Gently, mysteriously, persistently, humbly, prophetically, sacrificially, irrevocably.
Jesus tells his disciples that they will be his witnesses – in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. The dye will spread from the centre – Jesus – to the outermost reaches of the globe (Acts 1:8). Whether we realize it or not and whether we feel up to it or not – we are witnesses of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. As individuals and as local communities and as the global body of Christ, we have the capacity to affect our world simply by living out our faith in every situation, every encounter, every relationship. When we are present – and by that I mean fully engaged – we are a force to be reckoned with (even as we eschew the use of force).
We are not meant to be contained. We aren’t meant to shine only in our churches. Our churches – and other gathering places (where 2 or 3 come together) – are meant to be places of worship – absolutely – but also, I think, places where we are inspired, equipped, challenged and sent out, to demonstrate our faith in the trenches (and also on the mountain tops!) of everyday life.
These days it may seem that our world – Canadian society at least – is not very receptive to the Good News that we have to offer. In fact, the world can be downright hostile to both the message AND the messenger. Many Christians may feel that they are the minority and the marginalized in Canadian society. Despite our best intentions and our sincere and genuine desire to be salt and light in our communities, it seems that our faith is often unceremoniously ridiculed and rejected.
It’s not easy to be a witness in such a climate. It’s tempting to withdraw – to isolate ourselves and to hang out with those who understand and appreciate and agree with us. Our own kind.
But here’s what I think: we are on the verge of incredible opportunities to infuse our culture with the love and grace of Christ. Despite the “prosperity” that we’ve come to take for granted in Canada, there are lots of indications of social and psychological breakdown: the rates of anxiety, depression, addictions, bankruptcy, divorce, homelessness, unemployment, disease, etc. all point to serious deficits in our society.
Christians who can humbly enter those dark places with words and actions that bring hope and healing will, I suspect, be very welcome. And that’s what we mean by INFUSE CULTURE. Hebrews 10:24-25 says: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
There will be differences of opinion about method – of course. We’re Baptists, after all! We don’t have to agree. There will be different approaches and what we need is discernment to know what approach will most effectively honour God in each situation. Some will favour a “hold the line” approach while others will decide that “the line” is less important than the people on the other side. Some will use their time and effort to organize protests against government policy while others will volunteer to serve the poor and marginalized in their community. There’s lots to do – let’s get all hands on deck!