“You are the light of the world. A city 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 men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” ~Matthew 5:14-16
Public Agenda, a national research group, published the results of a study three years ago entitled “Rudeness in America.” The survey queried respondants on the increasingly common breaches of etiquette we encounter in society such as cell phones in restaurants, selfish driving, and public cursing. The report claims that 79% of us believe lack of respect and courtesy is a serious problem. 88% of us encounter people who are rude or disrespectful at least 3-4 times per week. 50% say they’ve walked out of a store in the past month because of poor customer service.
But what do we do about it?
The survey shows that 42% of us believe walking away from the person or circumstance is the proper way to handle rudeness or lack of respect. 36% replied that the proper response is to flood the situation with excessive politeness.
These kinds of things, while they do drive us crazy, may seem trivial in light of the “bigger issues” facing us and our communities. But isn’t this exactly what our Savior meant when he charged his disciples to be salt and light? As trite as it may sound, our actions do speak much louder than our words.
Jesus is preaching in Matthew that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. It’s breaking into earth. It’s here. It’s changing people. It’s changing lives. It’s impacting the world in profound ways. And you, my disciples, are living proof of it. You’re not just bringing the light of the good news into the dark corners of the world. You ARE the light! It’s like what Paul told the church in Thessalonica: forget the message, you ARE the message!
We must LIVE the truth of the gospel so people see that it’s real, that it’s not just so much talk. The Kingdom produces changed lives in us. The world sees by our actions and good works that it’s true. And they, in turn, praise our Father. Being salt and light means being seen being different. And it happens in the ordinariness of life. We’re to live in a transformed way in our everyday activities.
Are you rude or disrespectful? Do you go along with the crowd in ripping the football player on the opposing team? How do you treat your customers? Your students? Your waiter? Your brothers and sisters in Christ?
I’ve been criticized for this, but I won’t apologize. I will not apologize for holding my brothers and sisters in Christ to a higher standard. I’ll never apologize for expecting more out of Christians than I do those in the world. We should never tolerate Christians being rude or disrespectful to anyone, much less to fellow believers. I hear people sometimes excuse selfish and hurtful behavior in the church by saying, “Well, that’s just the way he is.”
No, it’s not! He’s been baptized! He’s a Christian! The Scriptures tell me he’s a brand new creature. The Holy Spirit lives in him. Getting loud in someone’s face in inexcuseable.
Donald McCullough wrote a book in 1998 called Say Please, Say Thank You: The Respect We Owe One Another.
“I’m more interested in the little things, such as remembering to say ‘thank you’ and to call your mom on Mother’s Day. These things may not seem very important when compared with the major problems facing our culture. Yet they may be the best place to begin; they may be the only place to begin. If a person can’t remember to say ‘thank you’ to her housekeeper, it’s won’t matter much if she writes a major philosophical treatise on kindness; if a person is rude to his family, the angels in heaven won’t give a holy rip if he preaches soaring sermons on the nature of love.”
If we are disciples of Jesus, we are the light of the world. The light to the world. Our lives are changed, we’re different, and it’s obvious. As obvious as lighting a lamp in a dark room. If we’re courteous, respectful, considerate, and others-oriented, it’ll be clear to those around us that Christ does make a difference. It’s not just talk.