Church is a sign of the kingdom and a taste of the future
Matthew 5:13-16 | 1John 1:5-7, 2:9-11 | Romans 8
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.
1 John 1:5-7
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
1 John 2:9-11
9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
Contrary to many of the ways Christians speak, the Church is not called to build or extend God’s kingdom. The Kingdom of God is God’s to build and extend. Instead, as we see in how Jesus speaks of the kingdom, we are called to enter it, receive it (Luke 17.18, Luke 12.32), and inherit it in its fullness when Jesus comes again (Matthew 25.34, James 2.5).
A life lived in the kingdom of God should be visible and stand out in some way and we would expect to see a church demonstrate allegiance to God by good works of many kinds that illustrate the character of their hearts. In this way, the church is called and designed to be the visible sign and taste of the kingdom of the Messiah – called to ‘show and tell’ the presence and truth of the kingdom (Luke10.9).
This is why Jesus describes his disciples as salt and light – we are called to witness to the reality of the coming kingdom. When we think of the church in these terms it extends our vision of church from something we attend, a building we worship in, a service we provide, an organisation we belong to, or an activity we engage in. Salt and light are organic metaphors that emphasise the impact that we have on the world and community we live in. They are characteristics that emphasise an inherent quality.
As Jesus expands on these metaphors the way he develops the story provides a warning about us losing our efficacy as either salt or light. This raises the question about how salty or light we are as a community – not simply in our social action, but in our shared communal life together, and the character of our hearts.
It is important to note that the church is a foretaste of the future in a number of different but interrelated ways – being a united community of people gathered from every tribe and tongue, being a community which experiences the presence of the Spirit, being a community of healing and reconciliation, being a community where the radical justice of the kingdom is experienced in the relationships of brothers and sisters living together in love and caring for each other economically as well as pastorally, and being a community of evangelism. We are the body of Christ representing Jesus and his kingdom in the world.
It has been said that the church is not an end in itself, but that it exists always and only for the sake of the Reign, or Kingdom, of God. In other words, the Church is an eschatological community anticipating and making real the future that is yet to come in completeness.
The church is also a community where our longings for the restoration of all things are held in tension with the reality of sin and suffering in the world. We are a church actively looking engage in spiritual warfare against sin, the world, and the devil, to resist and remain faithful to Jesus, and a church which is able to find hope in the face of suffering.
Take away – As we carry the love of God in us, we find ourselves sharing this love with others. Seeking change and justice is vital for every Christian but it also matters how we go about bringing these things about. We seek to help without hurting. Evangelism lies at the heart of our missional life and we are invited into ministries of healing and reconciliation. What does it mean for us to learn together how to become a community of healing and renewal, through the power of the Spirit?