Saturday, March 10, 2012

Salt of the Earth

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

-- Galatians 3:28
The saying goes that you can know a man (or woman) by the company he keeps. So how about for you? Are most of your friends other Christ-followers...and is your day filled with Bible studies, Gel Groups and Christian music? Or maybe you're on the other end of the scale. Most of your friends don't know about Jesus...or even that you're a Christ-follower. Of course, you might be one of those folks who are somewhere in the middle--spending your time with believers and non-believers alike while serving as Christ's hands and feet in the community. Jesus calls His followers in this third group the Salt of the Earth. It's through these special people that God's kingdom grows by influencing those from all walks of life: from the rich and famous to the infamous and obscure.

And that's the way it's been since Jesus invited His first follower over 2,000 years ago in a remote outpost of the Roman Empire. Surprisingly (or maybe not!), it's unlikely that His disciples would have been chosen by any respectable rabbi of the day. After all, some were fishermen, one was a tax collector and another (Simon the Zealot) might be considered a terrorist by today's standards.

Yet Jesus chose them anyway. And they changed the world. One of these "regular Joes" was a fisherman named Peter. A flawed character by his own admission, Peter--like everyone--had his strengths and weaknesses. One of his darkest hours came when after years of following Jesus and even proclaiming Him the Son of God, he three times denied even knowing the Savior! But after visiting Jesus' empty tomb and later actually conversing with Him after the Resurrection, Peter's actions and words revealed an utterly changed life and outlook.

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter would soon preach to crowds of thousands, who we read were torn to the heart when he proclaimed Jesus--the one who they had crucified--was actually their long-awaited Messiah. The Book of Acts reports that Peter's words so disturbed the High Priest and the religious leaders that they demanded to know by what power the apostles dared to proclaim Jesus and the Resurrection.
"But when they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men," we read, "they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus."
Centuries later, Jesus continues to change the lives of those who seek and trust Him. And His followers still come from all over. They work for insurance companies, supermarkets, fast food restaurants and banks. Others are homemakers, sales representatives, police officers and marketing executives. And still more are between jobs, retired or work part-time. But for all their differences, there's a basic commonality: their fervent belief in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Families are fed, clothed and housed through their contributions and work in local food pantries, the Salvation Army and similar organizations. The sick are cured through the healing touch of healthcare professionals who also happen to trust Jesus. Meanwhile, other Christ-followers teach the illiterate to read and the undereducated to gain critical life and job skills.

What's obvious is that Jesus likes to mix it up! His Church--meaning all the Christ-followers on Earth--is a living, breathing entity of immense diversity. And it's also a place where all races are present; a mingling of the rich, the poor and the middle class. But above all, it's where everyone who seeks Christ and a changed life through Him are welcome. The ground where every Christ-follower stands--that salty earth beneath the cross--is level indeed. 

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