So if you’re friends with me (or say 50 other young people) on Facebook, you might have realised that the West Scotland Divisional Youth Band of the Salvation Army (that really is the longest title!!!) spent the weekend in Birmingham and Coventry. We performed a 30min concert in the foyer at the army’s Symphony Sounds event, spent the evening at the event, then lead worship as Coventry City corps on Sunday morning, followed by an open air. I’m going to write another post about the weekend in general, but thought I would start by sharing what i shared in the morning meeting yesterday in Coventry. As ‘female band sergeant’, I had the opportunity to share a ‘thought’ during the meeting. Myself, Matt (who is the male sergeant – cheesy double act that we seem to have become) and Thomas (who has way more experience at this than either of us do!) all did a ‘thought’ based on verses in Matthew chapter 5 in which Jesus tells his disciples to be the salt and the light in the world. Matt began by explaining the verses, and relating them to three values in his own life of love, commitment and ambition, and Thomas followed me by talking about how being the salt and the light relates to love.
I had never done anything like this before. I’ve given testimonies when asked to before, but i’ve never given anything along the lines of a sermon. (Thomas described what Matt and I were to do as a ‘testimony with insight’, so it’s a bit of both) But I have never spoken to a congregation of that size, of whom I didn’t know, like that before. Given what i’m usually like, I thought i’d be terrified, but while my palms were sweating before hand, I felt surprisingly confident. I wasn’t self-conscious. (Well, not very much). I believed in what I was saying. I was even able to look up quite a lot and not read straight from my notebook (something i’ve never been good at), and it was great to see a few friendly faces dotted about who had come to support the band. Some people would find standing up and speaking, or ‘preaching’ like that quite easy, but given that i’ve never been quite sure of exactly what I believe, or even of myself, i’m actually quite proud of myself. I think I did ok! (Youth band, feel free to disagree/give constructive criticism haha!) I hadn’t realised I was capable, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. (As well as truly privileged to have this role within the band – but more on that in my next post!)
Youth Band at Coventry – Salt and Light
As Matt has already said, the key point of these verses in Matthew 5 is to be the salt and the light in the world. As Christians, in everything we do and everywhere we go, it should be evident that we know and love God, and want others to experience that too. The presence of a light in a dark room or space will be unmistakeable, and in the same way, Christians need to be a beacon of light in what can be a scarily dark world, as we have been reminded of again this weekend with events in London. We need to be a light in the darkness both in the sense that the truth of God’s word brings light to darkened hearts when we sin, but also in the sense that good deeds must be evident for us all to see. And our deeds will be evident if they are performed in line with the other principles Jesus mentions throughout the New Testament, for example in the Beatitudes earlier in Matthew chapter 5.
The thing is though, in order to really be the salt and the light, we need to be authentic. We need to be all in. In order to shine God’s light in the world, there has to be a difference between the Christian, and the world. Any choice by us which blurs the distinction between the Christian and the norms of this world is a step in the wrong direction. Whether we’re accepting the ways of the world for the sake of ease, comfort, convenience or even fear, it distances us from Christ and who He wants us to be, AND makes us less able to truly be the salt and the light for him.
It’s not always easy to be authentic though, particularly for young Christians like those in the band. As it says in Romans 12, a passage the band are quite familiar with: “Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention upon God.” It can seem a lot easier sometimes to conform to the pattern of this world; to say you’re going to ‘some band thing’ rather than admitting that it’s a church event. Or to be completely quiet and not acknowledge your faith at all. But to be the salt and the light Jesus is telling us to be, we can’t hide it away.
Personally, as well as struggling sometimes with being authentic, I also struggle with knowing how to shine his light through me. I find it difficult to find my own ways to shine – not for my own sake or benefit, but so I can share God and make it clear to those I interact with that there’s something different about me, in the most positive way possible. In my nature, i’m naturally quiet, quite shy, and quite reserved. I definitely wouldn’t describe myself as outgoing or very confident or charismatic – unlike my charming fiancé you heard from earlier! I’ve always found it tricky to make myself heard in all kinds of settings, so how does someone who prefers to blend in with the crowd and stay relatively in the shadows shine bright enough to let others see the brilliance of God and his love? How do I shine, and where?
A few years ago I decided to start an online blog. For me, it works a bit like an online diary. Every so often I would write a post, often just to empty my head a bit, and topics would range from general life musings to quite frequently; faith. I would write about questions I had or things I didn’t quite understand. I’d share almost-testimonies of what God was doing in my life and ways I was relying on him, as well as posting devotions when it had been my turn at band or songsters. I initially wrote it all for myself, then eventually got brave enough to share it on Facebook. What I found was that firstly, people actually read and were interested in what I had to say. Secondly, people, and often people i’d least expect would message me wanting to discuss with me something i’d written about faith, or to say they related, or were even encouraged or inspired. I’m not in any way trying to blow my own trumpet here, but highlighting the influence I was able to have without even meaning to. I may see communicating in person as a flaw of mine, but God was helping me use writing as a skill to share him through. It showed me that you don’t have to be the loudest or most charismatic person in the room for it to be clear that God shines through you. As long as you are authentic in your belief, and committed to being as salty and full of God-flavour as you can be, as Matt alluded to earlier, you can be what Jesus is telling us to be in this passage.
It doesn’t mean you have it all figured out or that you are or need to be the perfect Christian. The impurities of the world, and circumstances, are going to dilute your saltiness and dim your light from time to time, but that is totally ok. They key is being authentic, honest, and following the commandments Jesus has for us. Simple stuff like being truly kind to people: anything from holding open a door, to supporting someone when they need it most. It’s not really that difficult, and may not always seem significant, but it is at the heart of what Jesus is constantly teaching us.
Show his love in whatever way you can and in whatever way works for you. Be authentic, and accountable – to yourself, to others, and most importantly, to God. Make the influence you have on the world be not just a positive one, but one in which you are truly shining for God.