Salt and Light in the
The Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew quotes the words of Jesus to his followers, 'You are the salt of the earth' and a little later: 'You are the light of the world'. How might these apply in relation to the forthcoming EU Referendum? Here are a few personal reflections based on the Think, Pray, Vote resource of the ecumenical Joint Public Issues Team.
The resource from Baptists Together, the Methodist Church, The Church of Scotland, the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office, and the United Reformed Church begins with a reminder of the greatest commandment. 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind', and the second, 'love your neighbour as yourself'. Matthew 22: 36-40. We are salt and light when we fulfil these commands.
Being salt speaks of performing a function, making a difference and bringing out the best. Being light is about illumination and bringing things in to the open. In relation to the current EU debate, I think that means thinking about the issues, praying for the outcome and voting on June 23rd.
Think about the issues. When Jesus used metaphors like salt and light he was making his audience think. When he told parables or posed questions he engaged peoples' brains. Today, voters are being asked a question, 'Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the Eurpean Union? In the current climate of public debate and daily news reports, it would be easy to 'leave it to the politicians' or 'those who know what they are taking about'. We are easilly confused by multiple messages and conflicting interests. Some say, 'I just want the facts' as if to be told what to do, while others give up on deciding altogether.
Being a follower of Jesus is about 'active engagement' not 'blind faith', and each of us need to take responsibility for the common good by first thinking about the issues. Being 'salt and light' suggests more than putting 'X' on a piece of paper - the decision cannot be left to the last minute in the voting booth when you have the pencil in your hand and a choice between two boxes. Yes, we can 'pray in all circumstances' but a big decision requires proper consideration. As a number of national, regional and local groups of churches are informing the debate, we at CTE have collated resources from a variety of churches and agencies to provide more facts here. Do look through, read, and pass on the link to others.
Pray for the outcome. The recent initiative of the Archbishop of Canterbury discussed on YouTube with the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster (link here) is a reminder of the importance to pray the prayer of Jesus Thy Kingdom Come. It is a prayer which unites all Christians as we pray Our Father and leads us to see the common good. By asking for forgiveness and praying for daily bread we offer ourselves to be the agents of the kingdom. Salt and light are change-agents and the change we want to see is God's will and kingdom come. As I write these words I now realise that I have not been praying intentionally for the referendum. Have you? Let's pray.
Vote on June 23rd. All votes are important and each vote counts. There has been debate and books written about whether or not the 1876 American Presidential candidate Rutherford B Hayes won by one vote, but even that is a reminder of the important fact that every vote matters to the outcome. In our own day we are used to election reports of a close-call, recount, hung-parliament and coalition government. Every vote really does count. Christians, like other citizens, have a privilege to vote on June 23rd. I believe we have a resonsibility to exercise the right.
Finally, being salt and light says something about being noticed. Verse 14 of Matthew 5 says, ' A city on a hill cannot be hidden'. This suggests to me that, as in our Christian faith, what we believe may be personal, but it is not private. Now I am not suggesting a megaphone and placard approach, but I am thinking we enter more in to the public debate. I was surprised when a neighbour asked my wife and I 'which way are you going to vote?' She said the answers helped her make a decision. Even if she changes her mind at least it was bringing this imortant debate more in to the open.
Matthew 5:16 provides a summary: 'Let your light shine ... that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven'.
Think. Pray. Vote. Resource of the Joint Public Issues Team
Collated list of resources from Churches and Agencies
Jim Currin, Evangelisation, Mission and Media. Churches Together in England.