13 “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.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16

We live in a celebrity-driven society. We love to follow popular figures, we track superstar athletes’ every move, we hang on celebrities’ and politicians’ every word. When we hear the word “influence,” we often think of someone who has a large following, fame in Hollywood, or success in professional athletics. But think through your own life. Who has had the most direct impact on your journey? Who has shaped your growth and pointed you to Jesus? Chances are, that person is someone who you actually know. Someone who has sat with you, listened to you, and cared about you.

As Christians, we are called to positively impact the world, not isolate ourselves from it. In order to have a direct influence on others, we need both proximity and differentiation. We must be close to people, while also being different from them. This can prove to be a great challenge. In today’s passage, Jesus uses two metaphors to highlight the dangers of losing proximity or differentiation. Losing our saltiness refers to not being different from the world. Hiding our light means we don’t allow people to get close to us. Therefore, we lose out on the chance to influence others for Christ.

In Jesus’ day, these temptations would’ve been very prevalent for his followers. Persecution would come from the people at the top, as these leaders would feel threatened by Jesus’ countercultural teachings. Today, we are still tempted to “blend in” with the world, or to isolate ourselves from people who are different than us. We can seek comfort in the world to the point that we lose our influence. As I think through my own journey, God has brought Christians into my life who weren’t afraid to get close to me. There was something different about their life that was so attractive. This passage has motivated me to stretch out of my comfort zone and look for opportunities to do the same for others. Relationships can be difficult, time-consuming and messy, but we have the hope of Jesus living inside of us. As you think through your neighborhood, workplace, coffee shops, gym, who could God be inviting you to pursue with the hope of the gospel? Will you boldly be the salt and light of the earth?

By Billy Berglund