Be the Salt and Light of Our Communities

By Rev. John Kao

A lot of people may be interested in knowing why I started the Chinese Community Church. I think there were three main factors that led to my decision.

1. In 1969 I worked at CNEC (Christian Nationals’ Evangelism Commission) which served Christian workers in South East Asia. I often visited North America to deliver sermons and raise fund for CNEC. My work has been much blessed by God for six years. However, I was reminded that my initial calling was mainly to evangelism, church planting, saving lost souls but not in fund raising.

2.  In September 1974 I returned to Hong Kong to report on my work in North America. Some of the parents in my church asked if I could to take care of their children who were studying in Canada. Since my fund raising job required me to travel frequently, it was impossible for me to look after them.

3. During that time, I had a relative who was studying at McMaster University. He worked in a restaurant after school. He became addicted to gambling which ruined his university studies.  He was also deeply in debt. I felt that there was a lack of healthy church life for young people in Canada and I was deeply saddened.

By the grace of God, I accepted a challenge from CNEC in 1974 to plant a church in Toronto. Many people thought the church should be planted in China Town, since this was where most Chinese people lived in those days.  However, God has His own plan for us. We rented a small Canadian church near the Yonge and Lawrence Subway Station, and began our first Sunday Service on January 12, 1975. There were few Chinese families in that area, but the Lord drew a lot of young people to the Church from all directions via the subway. Later when the Government of Canada changed her immigration policy allowing foreign students to became landed immigrants after graduation, the number of believers increased greatly. God has provided us the best timing, best place and best people. His provisions were much better than any human plan. It was our Lord Jesus who led all the way.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus first talked about the Beatitudes. Then he emphasized that we are the salt and light of the earth so that through these virtues the name of our God will be glorified. (Matt 5:1-16)

The Apostle Peter also reminded the believers that “WE are the chosen people; the royal priests, a holy nation and God’s very own people. We are called out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1Peter2:9)

Our heavenly Father makes us citizens of Heaven able to enjoy His blessings of the Eight Beatitudes, namely:  blessed are those who are poor in Spirit, who mourn, who are gentle, who hunger for righteousness, who are merciful, who are pure in heart, who are peacemakers and who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness. He does not want us to self appreciate, or show mutual appreciation and admiration to each other in closed doors. After preaching the Eight Beatitudes, Jesus commanded us to be the salt and light of the earth, and care for the needs in our communities.

To be the salt and light of the world was a parable used by Jesus, but what is the real meaning? What are the applications?

The Qualities of Salt

”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” (Matt 5:13) Jesus emphasized the special characteristics of salt which is very different from others. It is like Christians who are chosen by God to be holy, with the special virtues of Christ to make a positive influence in a corrupt world. If we don’t have any impact, we will be like the salt which has lost its saltiness. In fact salt should never lose its saltiness or usefulness unless it is mixed with sand. Our Lord Jesus said solemnly: “It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless”. This is a serious warning indeed. Therefore as Christians, we must care for other people in our communities and exert a positive impact in society.

What are the functions of salt?

1. As a Preservative: Before the era of refrigeration we used salt to preserve the freshness of fish and meat and to prevent its deterioration. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has supernatural power to transform the old person into new (2Cor 5:17), and to change the perishable to become imperishable (ICor 15:52-53).This demonstrates that the power of the living Christ can save and redeem us. It can transform our corruptible old self into the incorruptible new person. With the help of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we also possess the usefulness of a preservative.

In today’s society, the rate of family breakdown, divorce and domestic violence keep rising. Examples of family dis-integration are everywhere and in the newspapers daily. As Christians, we feel this deep distress and must strengthen our own Christian families, then do our best to make a difference in our communities, hoping to increase more loving and peaceful families.

2. As a Medicine: Before the discovery of penicillin, salt water was often used as an antiseptic to wash the wounds of soldiers. In our society nowadays many people are addicted to drugs, alcohol and gambling. Their lives are ruined affecting their families and communities. Fortunately some of them are able to get out of their addictions with the help of the Gospel. However, when they come to church, they are often despised and segregated by the congregation for fear of having bad influence on our young people as well as damage to the church’s reputation. Don’t we remember that Jesus was criticized by the Pharisees for having feasts and drinks with sinners and tax collectors? Jesus replied: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners”. (Matt 9:12-13) Praise the Lord, through the Gospel and loving Christians, many are able to   be rehabilitated from drugs, alcohol and gambling into new lives again.

3. As a Seasoning:  Some think life is boring and meaningless. Some are deeply depressed and sad. Some are bitter about life and may indulge in sex, gambling, alcohol, and drugs. There seems no way out once addicted. These people need the Gospel to save them. Jesus said: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”. (John 10:10)

In the wedding at Canaan in Galilee, Jesus turned water into wine. It symbolized that the supernatural power of our Mighty God could change ordinary simple life into happy and abundant life. By accepting Christ as our personal savior, our lives are connected to our Lord just like the union of grapevine branches with the tree. Jesus proclaimed: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete”. (John 15:11)

Some churches organize healthy activities such as Tai Chi, line dance, Praise the Lord Dance, teen basketball, badminton, ping-pong etc. to show our desire to care for the whole person. Other institution such as The Bank of Montreal sponsors a TV program called “Mandarin Profile Awards” which promotes entrepreneurship among new Chinese immigrants. The Chinese Mutual Aid Association also sponsors different social and cultural activities. How can evangelical churches not see the need and do nothing?

4. Its Latency:  The salt bottle on the dinner table is not merely for decoration. To enhance the flavor of the dishes, it must be shaken to allow the salt to be dissolved into the food. This hidden and beneficial character of salt is similar to what Jesus said: “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you”. (Matt 6:3-4) Personal good work should be done privately. However collective witnessing by the church should be done publicly to glorify our heavenly Father in the communities.

The Qualities of Light

“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (I John 1:5)  Jesus spoke again to the people, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)  God, like the Sun, is the source of light; and Christians, like the moon reflecting sunlight, magnify the image and virtues of God. Our heavenly Father wants us to shine before men and to glorify Him.

1. Brightening:   Light can brighten us up in two folds: our heart and our surrounding. The most important aspect is about the darkness of the human heart. Before we are saved, our hearts are dark and controlled by Satan. The Apostle Paul said: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1:13-14)

Our surroundings are dark because this world is under the control of Satan. “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one (I John 5:19). Apostle Paul said: “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God”. (Rom 8:20-21).

Since the establishment of churches in the world, it has shone like a beacon of light among men until the time came when too much attention was paid on its internal organizational structures. The church has enjoyed secluded spiritual living, and segregated from the real world. They admired their own spirituality desiring a direct flowery pathway to heaven but ignoring the outside world. They stood by when the world was getting corrupted and chaotic not lending their hands to help.

In the history of the church, there was clear calling in some churches to care for the problems in society. But the voices were weak and the responses sporadic until Wesley’s revival movement in Britain suggested that holy living must coexist with social reforms, such as the abolishment of slavery and the improved conditions of prisons. Since then many churches also established schools, hospitals and other social welfare programs.

The mission of the church should be two fold and carried out in parallel. It should spread the Gospel to save souls, and also live out the teachings of the Gospel to care for the needs of the communities. During the nineteenth century, secularism became very popular. Many people did not believe in the supernatural messages of the Gospel. Some churches emphasized on social issues but never taught the Gospel and salvation. Other churches only emphasized on evangelism. As a result the liberal and traditional evangelical churches went in different directions. Fortunately, the 1966 Berlin Congress, 1974 Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization and the Chinese Coordination Centre of World Evangelism (CCCOWE) called loudly for churches to go back to global evangelism of the whole gospel of Jesus Christ. They reminded churches must carry out the dual missions of the gospel to save the soul of man as well as to care for the physical needs of the whole person.

2. Directional: Then Jesus told them (His disciples), “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going.  Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light. When He had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.” (John 12:35-36)

The light of Christ guides the direction of our society. If the light of the churches is bright, and their voices loud and clear, churches should be able to influence the society and government helping them to set policies that are fair and righteous for the benefit of people.

3. Visibility: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 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. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt 5:14-16) The Christian church is a witness of the collective living of Christians. It must be open to let the people see and know in order to give glory to our heavenly Father. “We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But now that we are saved, how can we hide His glory and blessings? Our personal good works must be done in private. However, the collective witnessing of the Church must be publicly acknowledged.

4. Salvation: "As I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions". (Acts 26:13) After the Apostle Paul was saved on the road to Damascus, our Lord Jesus sent him to “Open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” (Acts 26:18)  When we care about the needs in our communities, we must emphasize on the importance of saving souls through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We should be reminded that evangelical churches must carry out the two missions together: evangelism and social concerns.

We truly believe that the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. It is the Apostle Paul who said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness”.  (Rom 1:16-18)

* translated by Anthony Pang

Last modified on Monday, 01 April 2019 08:47


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