What Really Matters? Sharing Your Faith in Troubled Times
2020 is a year most people want to forget, and understandably so. This year will go down in history as one filled with what many called plagues of biblical proportions: a deadly virus wiped out over 663,000 people worldwide (New York Times), two massive waves of locust swarms spread across Africa through Israel, murder hornets supposedly monstrous with deadly stings entered the U.S, wildfires in the U.S. and Australia wiped out hundreds of miles of forests, animal life, natural resources, and more. Then we’ve witnessed horrendous acts of violence worldwide. National monuments, historic landmarks, and a famous cathedral all testified to our world history on this planet forever gone by intentional acts. Persecution of Christians in hostile countries snuffed out their lamps of faith. The stock market’s volatility frightens investors. Some disasters began in 2019, but the list continues to build. America has never seen so much upheaval from Busters to Millenials and younger. We are only eight months into 2020 (CNN). As we ponder these recent events and those of 2019, we have to wonder what really matters?
All of this drops us into a tailspin of confusion and fear– fear of what is yet to come. Mourning the loss of “normal.” Pushing back the “Powers that Be” to make them fix what’s wrong in our personal sphere. Quite a firestorm volleys across social media about each person’s views on such emotionally charged issues. I have to say that even Christians have acted up by holding tightly to their opinions on current events while attempting to force their views on naysayers. Some who seem to be in denial decide to post cute photos to hide from the firestorm. “Come rally to my cause!” many shout in the vastness of cyberspace. Some have resorted to profanity, barely resembling, let alone representing Jesus Christ. Others speak Truth through Bible verses and devotionals posted for all might venture to read them. Are we doing what really matters—Kingdom matters?
Digging into the Word
Read: Matthew 5:1-16
Focus Verse: 1 Peter 3:15-16
My hubby and I reminisced the other day about our trip to Israel from 2017. Some of the tensions we see now were just beginning to cause a ripple across the world then. It was refreshing to visit the land Jesus called his earthly home. We stayed in many places, but one that stands out is Tiberias—a pagan city Jesus never visited. The night sky glowed with the lights of the city as music filled the air with celebration and the nightlife that wandered the streets. We could see some of the cities on the horizon across the Sea of Galilee lit up in the distance. We savored some of the fish in a nearby restaurant, the aroma wafting through the streets nearby. The voices we heard below were unintelligible, foreign to our ears, yet we were the foreigners. It was from these docks we boarded a large wooden boat that ferried us across the Sea of Galilee to the shore near a Kibbutz. This Jewish commune is where we ate lunch, then traveled to see the places where Jesus taught, healed, and spent His ministry years.
Situated on the northwestern shores of the Sea of Galilee are Magdala and Capernaum, both economic trade centers with booming fish industries (bible-history.com map). Nested cozy between the two is the Mount of the Beatitudes. It is a lovely small mountain with a natural amphitheater. The Franciscan Sisters built a convent and church, which tends the incredible beauty of this place where Jesus taught thousands of people gathered together hungry for His words (Frazier, 42). This setting of our passage in Matthew 5:1-16.
Most Bible study writers focus on each aspect of the Beatitudes, blessings for those who have suffered many woes, and follow Him. I have no desire to rehash this section, but would instead consider it as a whole in verses 3-12. Those who followed Jesus, literally thousands of people, lived counter to their culture. As a result, many suffered ridicule, death, and much more. The Kingdom blessings and reward He shared with them—and us—await because of faithful obedience to Christ’s teaching (Zondervan).
Some of these people may have been tempted to give up by going back to their pagan religions. It certainly would have been simpler, but they saw something incredible in this ordinary-looking Man (Isaiah 53:2). He was different. Unique. Nothing like the rabbis of their day. He spoke with authority and compassion. He continued His lesson by addressing those tempted, who might become caught up with the cares of the world. His illustrations are right before them every day: salt and light.
Salt was used to preserve the fish brought in from the freshwater lake behind them. Both Magdala, where Mary Magdalene lived, and Capernaum, Jesus’ central ministry hub, were major fishing cities. Something had to happen with the fish they caught to prevent them from spoiling quickly. Salt. Salt possibly brought in from the Dead Sea or possibly salt marshes. It flavored bland foods, making it a delight to savor. Pickled fish was common in Jesus’s time. Salt has also historically been used for its healing properties to cleanse wounds and bring relief of pain to those who suffered several maladies. The unfortunate part of the healing was the initial sting on open, gaping wounds. This salt often had impurities in it derived from where it was harvested. What remained after a long while, may look like salt, but doesn’t taste nor work like it. It is worthless, tossed into the roads nearby trampled into the dirt by traffic (Zondervan). He wanted His disciples to be like the salt that brings healing, hope, and life to those around them, not impurities tossed aside into the road trampled on by life’s concerns like the world around them.
The other illustration was light. Most cities in Israel were up on hills, except those situated by the Sea of Galilee. They could see the distant cities across the Sea at night because of all the oil lamps and torches that gave light for their citizens (Zondervan). Only fear would cause them to hide their luminescent lamps. Fear of attack or harm. They needed their lamps to make an escape, but the light uncovered would reveal their whereabouts to the enemy. The Enemy—Satan—will attack through any means, as the examples in the Beatitudes Jesus taught previously. He called them to stand unafraid as Light in the vast darkness around them, testifying to the Love, Hope, and Life of Jesus Christ.
Responding in Faith to God’s Word Today
There are indeed a lot of threats to our faith today, whether direct or situational. Many people have lost their jobs, struggling to pay bills and buy food for their families. Many families mourn the loss of loved ones to COVID-19. Crops have been devastated to swarms of locusts twice and many fell ill to the novel Coronavirus, causing food shortages in many places. We are isolated from friends and family members, possibly working from home in less than ideal conditions. Many lost work due to shutdowns of business in the interest of slowing the spread of COVID-19. Our world has been turned upside down, yet our Lord reigns supreme.
Let us bring Love, Hope, and Life to those we encounter every day, whether in person or our online communities. May we not cave in to fear by casting insults and opinions into the ring of social media or other gatherings. We are Christ’s representatives in this world. We have all been tempted and even ventured into it accidentally. I have but backed out when it became an apparent argument. But recognize what it is: a trap of Satan’s meant to extinguish our Light of the Lord and cause our Salt to become trampled in cyberspace. Light is sometimes blinding to those who walk in darkness. There will be those who lash out against this Truth because it exposes their sin-filled darkness. Salt, when mixed with water and poured on an open wound, stings the wounded of the world. So it can be for some who have gaping severe emotional and spiritual wounds. It takes time before the healing can begin. Share your Love, Hope, and Life in Jesus with compassion.
You can do this when you read God’s Word, the Bible, daily. Saturate your mind and heart with it to be able to answer those who ask about the hope you have (1 Peter 3:15). Commune with God continually in prayer. As you pray-speak with Him, He will guide your words and actions to reflect His character through you. Worship and fellowship with other well-grounded, mature believers who can set an example for you of Jesus’s immense compassion and grace. As one lamp lights another illuminating the Way, so you may bring others to Christ. Be a delightfully different flavor of Life and healing to anyone you meet both face-to-face and virtually.
May God bless you.
Walking Where Jesus Walked by Gary Frazier, Discovery Cruises and Tours. Copyright 2017 by Gary Frazier. www.discoveryworldwideministries.com. P.p. 39-42, 46.
Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary: Volume 2 New Testament by Barker & Kohlenberger. Copyright 1994 by Zondervan Corporation. ZondervanPublishingHouse. Grand Rapids, MI. P.p. 22-25.
The Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica. The International Bible Society, Colorado Springs, CO>
“Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak”, By The New York Times Updated July 31, 2020, 4:51 A.M. E.T. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/world/coronavirus-maps.html
“2020 has Changed Everything, and It’s Only Half Over”, by A.J. Willingham, CNN, Updated July 3, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2020/07/world/2020-year-in-review-july/
“Map of the Sea of Galilee in Jesus’s Time”, Bible History.