At the very heart of the gospel is the idea of influence. The word gospel means good news, good news is worth sharing! Jesus introduced the Kingdom of God here on earth. With a crash the Kingdom of Heaven, as Matthew calls it burst onto the earth. The superior reality of the Kings dominion colliding with the reality on earth. A new influence had begun to invade the the planet and its impact would spread across the globe within a few short centuries. Today that influence continues and I would love to spend a few minutes exploring what it means to bring healthy influence to our society today.
The bible uses many pictures to help describe our influence as believers. Perhaps the most famous one being the picture of light. That we as believers shine brightly in our world. We are not called to hide the Kingdom but rather reveal it. Like a city on a hill we are to be blindingly obvious! We are be a place of refuge and a beacon of hope. Jesus was the light of the world but he also called us the light of the world. We were to carry the same hope he did. The fun thing about the light metaphor is that it points to the extreme and overwhelming power that the Kingdom brings. There is no fight between light and darkness. Where there is light there cannot be darkness.
The challenge we sometimes face with the light/darkness metaphor is that it can lead to or encourage black and white thinking. It can cause us to think of the goodies and baddies in our favourite action movie or the old cowboy movies where you could tell the baddies by the colour of their hat. Experience tells us life is full of a lot more grey that we might care to admit. Black and white and “us and them” thinking is a sure way to kill influence. It’s also vital to remember people are not our enemy, our battle is not against flesh and blood as Paul said.
This is where some of the other metaphors and pictures used to describe the Kingdom can be of great help. Believers are called salt. As I am sure you will have heard before, salt was used primarily as a preservative in the time Jesus spoke those words. We as believers prevent decay and keep society fresh! Yet the main point Jesus makes on us being salt is that we must be sure not to lose our flavour. So he seems to be emphasising the quality of salt that brings out the flavour of other foods. Salt does not do much on its own but when combined with other foods can enhance what is already there. So applying the metaphor to us we are called to bring influence by enhancing the flavour in our society. Believers being engaged within society should result in the identity of our culture becoming stronger. Our cultural distinctive should become more distinctive. We should be calling out the dreams in peoples hearts and bringing forth the life that is already there. Our society should taste better because of believers!
Another picture of the Kingdom is that of yeast in dough. The Kingdom is like yeast that was mixed into a large batch of dough. This picture speaks of the fact that the kingdom when mixed in becomes part of the whole. The impact of the yeast is that the whole batch rises. The impact of believers mixed in through out every area of society is that it rises. For me this speaks of hope and increase.
The goal was never to have believers who only stay together in a holy huddle. Influence for the Kingdom comes through us being mixed into the batch of society. From that place our lights will shine, we bring out peoples true flavour and we cause our society to grow in hope. A city should be better of for each believer wherever they may be mixed in. It is more akin to a secret service than a military occupation. As believers we must believe that we carry influence whether we feel it or not. God lives within us, it would be pretty hard for that not to have an impact on the environment around us! The Kingdom is all about influence, one reality superimposed onto another. Let’s be a healthy influence as we pray Lord let your Kingdom come more and more in our city and nation!