How Did Jesus Tell Us How to Live?
By virtue of being followers of Christ, Christians assume a leadership role in society. As individuals, we can play this leadership role in a variety of ways — by the way we live; by participating in campaigns or marches or prayer meetings against a particular social or political problem; by writing about such issues and so on.
The question that arises: What is the scriptural basis for the assertion that Christians are supposed to play a leadership role in society?
Salt and Light: Jesus Tells Us What We Are – Before We Are It
The answer is found in the Gospel of Matthew and the First Letter of St Peter. It is in Matthew where we find the famous “salt” and “light” imagery used by Jesus; “You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus tells his followers, “You are the light of the world.” If salt loses its saltiness, Jesus goes on to explain, it is no longer good for anything, “except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot”.
As light, Christians are like a lamp that should not be put under a bowl, but should be put on its stand so that “it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matt 5:13-15). These are very strong images to highlight the absolute need for Christians to be an example to everybody else in society.
Jesus concludes by explaining that the images are meant to reflect the visible and noticeable character and good conduct of Christians, and the impact such conduct should have on fellow human beings: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mt 5:16).
Non-believers May See your Good Deeds
In his letter, Peter echoes Jesus’ words as he urges the followers of Jesus to live exemplary lives among the pagans: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Pet 2:12).
He goes on to admonish believers to honour and respect secular authorities such as the emperor and governors.
Now, what do these scripture passages teach us about our social role in society?
First, as already suggested, Christians have a social responsibility, a leadership role in society. We often think in terms of our obligations to God only. In this regard, we tend to think that all we have to do on Sunday is to go to church and fulfil our Sunday obligation.
More to the Christian Life than Going to Church
Scripture tells us that there is much more to the life of a Christian than going to church to pray. The other dimension of the Christian life has to do with how we impact the lives of others in the society in which we live, how we preach the Gospel by the way we conduct ourselves in everyday life, and what we do about the problems and social ills that plague our society.
What this means is that, as Christians, we are not supposed to witness things like corruption, abuse of women, oppression and social injustice happening in our society and simply be content that we are not doing those things ourselves.
On the contrary, we are supposed to take a stand and to play a leadership role in showing others what should be done.
So next time anyone tells the Church to mind its own business, here is where we find our answer.