The Local Church of Christ: A Community Example
by M.H. Tucker
Some churches are not going and growing as they should in Christ, because of a lack of salt. Through careless living and indifference, they have been separated from the Lord Jesus and are now powerless. This is so much unlike Paul’s description of the church. He wrote that Christ’s aim is to “present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).
The Salt of the Earth
After Christ described Christian character in what is called the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), He passed on to the matter of the influence of Christian character. Two metaphors make it clear that the Christian has a purpose or function in the world: “Ye are the salt of the earth… Ye are the light of the world.” For it is written: “Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a lamp and put it under the bushel, but on the stand; and it shineth unto all that are in the house. Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).
Three attitudes toward the world are open to the Christian.
First, he may conform to the world, but this is forbidden: “And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
Second, he may practice asceticism. Centuries ago, the practice of isolating oneself from the world was believed to be the road to holiness. However, the statement of our Lord, “Ye are the light of the world,” does not allow a Christian to live in isolation. In fact, asceticism is no help in overcoming the world. We read of such: “Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:23).
Third, the only alternative then is to influence the world around us.
The great need in every community and every nation is more saving salt, that is, Christian character. More salt would have saved Sodom and Gomorrah. If ten righteous persons could have been found, they would have been preserved. The crying need throughout the world today is not more oil, but more salt. It is not intercontinental ballistic missiles which will preserve a nation, but Christian character—salt and light.
Oh, for the need of saving salt! It is the enemy of spiritual and moral decay; it is a preventive of corruption. Christian character is essential to keep the world from disintegrating. Wisdom dictates that we discard many things before we discard salt. A home can do without TV, carpets, and stereos, but not salt. A city can do without a mass transit railway or escalators, but not salt.
When Salt Loses Its Savor
Jesus said, “But if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men” (Matthew 5:13). Just as the church of Christ will influence a community to adopt a high standard of morals by her example, she can contribute to the downfall of a community through worldly living. The psalmist prayed that he would not be guilty of this, “Let not those who hope in thee be put to shame through me, O Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek thee be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel” (Psalms 69:6). “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27).
A Christian must be careful about dress. When Christians dress in thigh high skirts, skin tight jeans, flesh colored Capri pants and skimpy swimsuits, they bring reproach upon the church. Christian women must never provoke the lustful gaze. For it is written: “Ye have heard that it was said, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’; but I say unto you, that every one that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). Watching television lewdness and computer porn endangers one’s soul.
A Christian must guard his speech. A filthy tongue puts one’s evil mind on parade. “Let not corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth” (Ephesians 4:29). Again God’s word says, “But now do you also put them all away; anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking out of your mouth” (Colossians 3:5).
We must also abstain from strong drink; yes, even a social drink. For it is written; “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties (emphasis added) and abominable idolatries” (1 Peter 4:3).
Edgar Allen Poe, one of America’s great writers, said, “I learned to love the flavor of good wine sitting at my father’s table.” Poe died an alcoholic. Only eternity will reveal how many souls will be lost because someone encouraged social drinking.
The church must be warned if she is to remain pure before the community. Paul wrote, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn the unruly…” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Timothy received the charge: “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others may fear.” Titus was told, “…speak these things, exhort and rebuke with all authority” (Titus 2:15).
In order to maintain a good example before the community, withdrawal of fellowship may be necessary. This will challenge men to live right. “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw from every brother that walketh disorderly…” (2 Thessalonians 3:6). “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed” (2 Thessalonians 3:14). Again the Holy Spirit stated through Paul: “I wrote unto you not to keep company, if any man that is named a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one no, not to eat” (1 Corinthians 5:11).
When we do the above, the church will not have to resort to entertainment, build elaborate buildings or secure an outstanding speaker to attract the community. The great challenge of the church is to practice purity in a world of iniquity.
—Bulletin Briefs, Volume 11, #7, July 2008