It is clear that the Christian is in the world and that in the world he must remain like a uniformed soldier that is “on-duty” in a hostile land. When his job is done it will be God’s calling that will bring him home and not his own doing. Similarly, Christians are to return to, and live, in close communities, separated from the world, after going into the world to conduct their missions. Thus, the Christian is “in the world but not of it.” The Christian’s thought, his life, and his heart are not controlled by the world nor does he depend on the world, because he belongs to another kingdom and Master, and his communication/communion with that kingdom should not be broken in spite of the fact that the world attempts to do just that.
This communion implies two things. First, is that behind his confrontation with the material world is a spiritual reality. Therefore, the “weapons of his warfare are not carnal but spiritual” because “we do not war against flesh and blood.” Secondly, this communion/communication assures him that he is not of this world and that he is free from the death that awaits the world. Having been liberated from this death he is free to engage the spiritual enemy with weapons of love and truth. His mission is to break the chains of death and darkness that hold the world, with God’s secret weapons (Eph. 6:10-20).
Now, the question becomes, what are the responsibilities of the Christian in the life of the world? The traditional answers are all just formulas that lead nowhere, like, “live a Christian life,” or “you must witness and evangelize,” or “understand the will of God for your life.” All of these and others are good of course, as long as it is truly understood and not just religious talk.
What is the Christian’s calling and what actions are required?
First of all, we need to realize that Christians must not act like people of the world. The individual Christian has been given a part to play that cannot be fulfilled by any one of the world or any other Christian. We are not asked to familiarize ourselves or take part in all the different movements which men have started: political, social, economic, military, either for our knowledge or entertainment and to choose those which seem – good – and then support them. He is not asked to side with or to bless any particular human initiative nor to support any decisions of men. Secondly, the Christian has been given a mission of which the natural man can have no idea; yet, in reality, his mission demands a decision concerning the actions taken by men in the world. The Christian’s mission has the power to determine an outcome for the world, and his work must be unmistakable and characterized by decision and firmness in both his words and the unique quality of his visible life. What does this mean?
The Christian as a Sign
What this means according to God’s word is that the Christian is salt, light, and sheep in the midst of wolves.
You are “the salt of the earth.” God took the Israelites and made them His own through a covenant of salt. Leviticus 2:13 “You are to season each of your grain offerings with salt; you must not omit from your grain offering the salt of the covenant with your God. You are to present salt with each of your offerings.” Salt is the sign of the two-sided agreement between a man and God. Thus, in the sight of men and in the reality of the world, the Christian is to be a visible sign of this agreement, he is the salt that is to be added to every sacrifice in Christ. But, here is the essential thing, it must be a real sign, it must signify something, which means that his life and his words should manifest this agreement in the eyes of men. If this doesn’t happen then the earth will experience deprivation and loss of hope; it will wander aimlessly and will lack any real knowledge of itself or its future, and the salt will become worthless and cast out.
When Christians, like the Israelites, were born their cord was not cut, they were not washed with water, rubbed with salt, or wrapped in clothes, Ezekiel 16:3,4. The context here is that we were all still living attached to our parents, the Hittites and the Amorites, in full-faced idolatry, and in agreement with the world. We were still tied by an umbilical cord to our mother. In other words, our behavior hadn’t changed! Israel was still acting like her parents and likewise, us Gentile Christians. And if their umbilical cords were not cut, they would die even though they were outside the womb.
Romans 12:1-2, which I believe is the Covenant of Salt in action. As we offer our bodies as living sacrifices (salt was added) you are dying to self and living for God. How is this seen? Trusting God’s Word (the basis of a covenant) and conforming our lives on a daily basis; “transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
You are “the light of the world” and “the light shineth in the darkness and the darkness apprehendeth it not.” Christians are this light. What does light do? First of all, it displaces darkness; it is that which differentiates life from death; it is that which gives definition to goodness – and that is why in the following text reference is made to “good works.” Apart from this light how would we even know what good works are or in what context to understand goodness in the world; the world defines goodness much differently.
In another strain, how can we understand the history of the world apart from knowing the direction it should have taken; the path must be illuminated by light and its history given meaning. If we look at the progression of history we find no logic or confidence in its supposed actions or improvements through its instruments of politics and economics. To get an understanding of the past we must supply knowledge from the outside, through the Spirit, through the Church. This is why being the “light of the world” the Christian plays a part in the very life of the world, by its restrained interactions with the world. In addition to being “salt,” an element of preservation, he must go even further, he must reveal to the world TRUTH, the truth about its condition; he must be a witness to salvation, of the escape provided through the sacrifice of Jesus. However strange it may sound to the captive, who is captivated with, and bewitched by this world, the Christian must be the light of the world, a city on a hill that can’t be hidden.
Of course, what this means is that the Christian will be like “sheep in the midst of wolves.” The ultimate sign to the world is the Christian’s ability to lay down his life, to ratify and validate his message with his own blood, when necessary. Following the Lamb is the sign of the reality of God’s action in the world. It was the Lamb who took away the sins of the world, and Christians are the sign of that promise and reality. Every Christian receives a share in the work of Christ; we are the constantly renewed sign of the Lamb; we are also sheep.
History has made plain that there is no salvation apart from the offering of blood and the world can not discover life apart from the Christian witness of the sign of the Lamb, and to think otherwise is mere fantasy. Everyone in the world wants to be wolves, no one wants to play the part of the sheep. Unless the Christian plays his part there will be no life for the world; Christ in the Christian is the only hope of glory. Christians are the living witness, the sign, that points to what our Master and Lord has done and He says “Follow Me.”
This is why it is essential that Christians not be wolves. Christians should not dominate or judge, or kill those to whom they have been sent to rescue; we are to signify in our life and in our death a reality which can only be conveyed through service and suffering; it is the mysterious secret weapon of a reality that lays hidden to the world, but becomes visible through certain signs that are communicated to hearts that have been made ready to receive that precious seed.