In part four of this series, we’ll explore the application of the Salt and the Light in our daily lives.
Life is experienced in six different spheres. The normal development of a baby from birth to adulthood clearly identifies the six dimensions. Sociology and psychology break down the dimensions into their finer constituents. A simple broad description of the six life dimensions is enough for our purpose:
1. The Physical: From birth, a baby is aware of the physical dimension when it feels wet, cold, hunger, pain, comfort from a mother’s arms, etc.
2. The Clan: Gradually the baby becomes aware of the immediate family, the clan. Active relationship starts at this point. The baby makes and sustains eye contact, smiles, engages and responds in many ways that endear him/her to the family. Later in life’s journey other people like in-laws and extended family will join the clan.
3. The Social: The toddler goes to daycare and begins to socialize with individuals other than those of the clan. The child begins to experience people as nice or not so nice. Over time, long term friendship gets established.
4. The Mental: Formal learning begins when the young child goes to school. Of course, the mental dimension has been active since early childhood but now knowledge gets structured and organized. Eventually the adolescent matures and gives thought to the future. The process of choosing a career begins. Employment follows and planning for the future becomes more focused and detailed.
5. Spouse and children: Young adults begin to think of having their own families. Spouses and children become an intrinsic part of life, bringing both joy and pain.
6. The Spiritual: This dimension is mostly nebulous in people’s minds. For a long time, spirituality and religion were intimately connected. But when under the pressure of science, faith in God was declared obsolete (mainly in the West and in communist countries) and religion lost its significance. At the same time, spirituality was relegated to the back of people’s consciousness.
The stuff of life.
Events, self-created or produced by the environment (others and nature), are experienced at the level of the dimensions of life. In short, life is made up of events that everyone experiences albeit differently, depending on 1) personal values gathered from culture (social and religious), 2) one’s temperament of which there are four: the sanguine, the melancholy, the choleric, the phlegmatic, and (3) one’s past experiences.
Life events are interpreted by personal values, creating emotions. This is the reason why the same event, interpreted by people with different values, will create different emotions in these people. Two men, one a loving husband and father, the other a very abusive and brutal individual, are killed in the same road accident. The wife and family of the first will grieve for a long time. That of the second may feel intense relief with very little sorrow, if any. Two different sets of emotions produced by the same life event. The reason being that the two families interpreted the death of their respective husband and father from two different perspectives (values). Emotions always dovetail into behavior/action, overt or covert as allowed by the culture, one’s temperament, and memories of the same event in the past. Consequences, positive or negative, inevitably follow behaviour.
“You are the light.” The believer’s attitude toward life.
We are a light when we freely turn all the dimensions of our lives over to God because we genuinely desire to become like Jesus. God sends the Holy Spirit to transform us from the proud, self-centered, and driven individuals that we are into individuals “who have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Who have learned the secret of being content in any situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him that gives me strength,” Philippians 4:11-13.
This is the secret of remaining calm and confident when life events hit hard. The people around us see our attitude and wonder how men and women like themselves can be so composed when faced with the same troubles that they face. Our calm amd peaceful attitude provides divine light to a world enrobed in darkness.
“You are the salt.” The believer’s service for people.
We are salt when we are transformed into individuals whose behavior toward people is defined by Jesus: “Do for everyone what you would want everyone to do for,” Luke 6:31.
This is what we do when life events hit the people around us hard, when they need our help, or even when they treat us badly. We are salt to the people who experience our compassion, gentleness, and generosity, and benefit from our support though they may not acknowledge it. We do not do it to receive a thank you. We do it because we are more and more like Jesus. Our selfless service adds divine flavor to the despondent and insipid life of the people of the earth.
This expression was first coined by NASA for referring to small corrections made to ensure that rockets did not deviate from a predetermined course, and is a useful term for this discussion.
It is important to monitor the course/direction that the dimensions of our life are following. The moment we see, or are made aware of, a deviation no matter how small, we should turn back to God through repentance and confession. There is a beautiful promise found in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” God forgives the deviation and he also takes away the urge to deviate. This is what a course correction is all about.
When God is in control, the personal values change. Negative and corrosive values are replaced by positive healthy ones. Life events are interpreted differently and the emotions produced are healthy ones. Wholesome behavior follows, which results in positive consequences for us and for others. Finally, we must realize that the closer we walk with Jesus, the more we will see our own weaknesses. This is because the closer we are to the light, the more it illuminates the darkest recesses of our life. But the encouraging thing is that the people around us see the transformation, too, and they are amazed.
1 Peter 2:12: “Live such good lives among the unbelievers [Babylon] that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
Eddy Johnson is the director of ADRA Blacktown in New South Wales, Australia, and a retired pastor.
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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8723