This is a talk I gave a church this month, on the topic of “To Stand for Truth or to Abandon it.” I’m sorry to have been MIA for so long…I’ve been working on the talk, and on some other writing. I thought I’d share this, although some of the talk is specific to where I live I think it’s food for thought wherever you may be.
Please read Part I first, The Jelly Donut Gospel
Part III: Salty
Matthew 5:13 says:
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”
Living here, I’ve discovered that it’s possible to be a missionary right where you are, to find that at times what is required of you is not packing up your life to go out and follow God’s will but unpacking to do the same, right where you’ve been all along. It’s not always easy. Sometimes broken people don’t look like they need help from the outside, in fact sometimes the people in the most need are the very ones who are making your own life difficult! But over the years I have heard stories, so many stories of lives shattered by religion that serves itself rather than those it professes to shepherd. So many hearts broken, so many stories of loss and fear and pain. Ezekiel said it well:
“You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals.” Ezekiel 34:3-5
As missionaries, We need to be the salt of Salt Lake City (and you can fill in the blank here with where you live). What does that even mean? If you research it, there are tons of reasons that salt is important. It was used to purify things in ancient times, and salt that was contaminated with other minerals would lose its ability to preserve food, or to make it taste good. It was also used to bind water to the streets in Israel, which would have kept down the dust and muck…so you might have tossed salt that was contaminated and not edible out your door to treat the path up to your house. But I think that it’s possible to over-think the salt analogy. The most obvious property of salt isn’t one that you have to know anything about chemistry or history to understand, you already know if you’ve ever been to a movie. If you order the movie special, you’ll get a huge bucket of popcorn loaded with salt and a soda that’s mostly ice. If you want another drink, you’ll have to pay for it. But you’ll get a free refill on the popcorn…why? Because salt makes you thirsty! They know you’ll be back for another five dollars worth of diet Coke.
They say you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.
You CAN make him thirsty!
The joy we have in being free daughters of the King of Kings should make us salty, and make others thirsty for Jesus. And the women I know are amazing and you shine like a city on a hill and I love you guys for it! But sometimes the world can drag us down, and the fight with toxic perfectionism can really take it out of you, and it can be really hard to avoid slipping into feeling the same feelings that are causing depression in LDS women. It’s on my heart that right now, in cold dark February, maybe we all need a little bit of a reminder as to the truth of who we are in Christ, to help us be the salt of Salt Lake City.
For Christmas, one of my kids bought me a clock radio where I can dock my iphone and charge it or listen to music. Honestly I’m sure it’s not rocket science to run that thing but I am really not tech-savvy and somehow I managed to mess the settings up so that the two alarms go off at odd hours on their own, when I don’t need an alarm at all. So I was constantly getting jerked out of a peaceful sleep at 3 a.m. for no reason, fumbling around to get rid of the false alarm only to fall back asleep and have it happen again an hour later. The clock is a good thing to have and it’s important to have alarms when I need them, but those false alarms were preventing me from having peace and getting rest! So I had to go get the instruction manual for the clock and read it carefully. Then, using the knowledge I found in the instruction book, I was able to press reset.
Sometimes as Christians we fall back into thinking in a “religious” way instead of resting on faith. When we do, false alarms keep jerking us out of peace and make us feel like we aren’t good enough and are not measuring up. When we start feeling weary and lost, and when our faith starts feeling like work, it’s a good indicator that we need to protect our hearts and press the reset button! We need to go to the instruction manual (The Bible!) and read up on some verses about who we are in Christ, verses like John 15:15
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
and Romans 5:1-2:
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”
Friends, if we’re going to be effective as Christians we need to remember that we should be operating out of love. 1 Corinthians 13 1-3 says
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
It’s a beautiful thing to do good works, to spend your time and your money and your heart in helping the poor and sharing the truth about Jesus. But I think we also should keep in mind that it is possible to do good things for the wrong reasons. Here are some “bad” reasons to do something good: Keeping up with the Joneses, Guilt, Fear, Personal Gain. And the good reasons for doing good works? Love. Pretty much that’s it, just love. If I ask my kids to do a task at home, I don’t want them to do it because they are scared of me or because they know I’ll make them feel guilty if they don’t, I want them to do it because they love me! A child doing the dishes with an angry attitude and not out of respect or love does remind me of the resounding gong or clanging cymbal of 1 Corinthians.
Sometimes we don’t love the good thing we’re doing out of obedience at the time, but if we are doing what we are doing out of Love for Jesus and love for the person that we’re doing it for, then it is good. Doing something nice for bad reasons might result in the same thing as doing it for good reasons…for example, serving dinner at a soup kitchen. In both cases, the person gets fed. But the bowl of soup that’s served out of (guilt, fear, a desire to keep up with the Joneses) will fill a person’s stomach, not his heart. A bowl of soup served with love and out of a heart that’s thankful to Christ for what he’s done for us and a desire to pass that love on to others? That will fill the hungry person’s heart as well as his stomach. And it just might also make them thirsty for more of what you have…Jesus!