License to Be a Jerk
Matthew 5:13-16 You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works…
I once, in a fit of righteous anger, walked into a pastor’s office, swore at him and told him how horrible he was behaving. I am not proud of this story, but at the time, I felt that as I was right, God was on my side. Thus, I had the authority and justification to behave however I wanted. I was going to be the salt of his earth and the salt in his wounds. God wanted me to do it!
In retrospect, I can see how wrong I was and I have long since apologized. At the time however, no one on earth could have convinced me that I was acting badly as mine was a just cause. The fact that I was on the side of right, in my mind, gave me license to be a jerk.
I think that I have often used this verse in such a manner as to justify being that jerk. I tell myself that as a Christian, I have a divine mandate to carry the truth to a world which desperately needs it. So, even if it means swearing at and berating someone, I am still doing God’s work as long as I am on the side of truth. Truth becomes a license to behave however I want. Truth becomes the excuse I use to let loose the defects of my pride and need to be right. If I am on the side of right, I cannot act wrong, right?
I was of course wrong to swear at the pastor and I am of course wrong when I use my faith as a justification for behaving badly. So, as I should not behave badly in defense of the truth, my only other option is to embrace love and abandon truth right? I often see love and truth as mutually exclusive. In my defective thinking, I have to choose one or the other.
Jesus of course, was not teaching that I have to choose one or the other. Salt was and is still used as a preservative and as flavoring. Jesus was saying that as Christians, we are to stand out in the world as something different. We are to be the preserving influence that carries the message of the gospel to a dying world. We are to be the light of God that shines before men. Through our good works, we are to display Christ’s love while carrying the message (truth) of the gospel.
This message of the gospel is always going to be offensive to some. Not everyone will embrace the idea that we are defective and need a savior. Jesus taught as much. I cannot however, use this rejection as an excuse for my defective need to be right. I cannot use my sense of divine rightness to act badly. I am no longer on Christ’s side when I use the defective weapons of my own flesh nature.
If I want to be the salt and light of the world, I need to carry the gospel with good works and love. The truth is not a license for me to act like a jerk.