These are my notes from a lecture delivered by Dr. John Stott on November 4, 1986 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill entitled "Developing a Christian Impact on Society". For more on Dr. John Stott, see this post.
What values or standards are going to dominate our national culture? Most countries are increasingly pluralistic. It means that many things are competing for the soul of America. It's partly an evangelistic question but it's also a social and cultural question. Do Christians have a social as well as evangelistic responsibility in the community?
Look at Matthew 5:13-16:
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 by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city 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 men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Salt was used as an antiseptic and a preservative in Jesus' day. Jesus meant at least four things by these models:
1. Christians are radically different from non-Christians.
Jesus contrasted Christians to the rest of the world. We are to be the light for a dark world and the salt for a decaying world. We are called to be radically different from the rest of the world.
2. Christians are to penetrate non-Christian society.
Though morally distinct we shouldn't segregate ourselves from society. Jesus commands us to let our light shine into the world. The salt can't do any good unless it is rubbed or soaked into the meat. The application of this is what Christians decide to do for a career. Ministry is a generic word and does not merely refer to the pastorate. Through whatever career we choose we can be a minister for Christ. There is a wide variety of ministry.
3. Christians can change non-Christian society.
When you switch on a light a room is no longer dark. When you rub salt into meat bacterial decay stops. If society becomes corrupt society is not to blame because that's what happens when fallen men are left to themselves. We have to ask, "Where is the church?" We also must accept the role Christ has given us to be salt and light. Society cannot be perfected but it can be improved.
How does social change take pkace and how can Christians make an impact? One way is prayer. Prayer is an effective weapon in asking for help for our national leaders. The second weapon is evangelism. We have to be socially active Christians and that's not possible without evangelism. The third weapon is example. Humans are very imitative. A good example can have an enormous effect on society. The fourth is argument. Legislation can reduce evil in our social structure. We have to get into the public debate and argue the goodness of God's law. The fifth weapon is action. We need to be willing to take action.
4. Christians must retain their Christian distinctiveness.
Salt is no good if it loses its saltiness. If light loses its brightness it is no good. We must retain our Christian standards, values, and lifestyles without compromise. The differences are listed in the Sermon on the Mount.
Christ calls to the narrow road of life as opposed to the wide road of death. We must repent of our compromises and ask Christ to be Lord of all of our life. We also must repent from our pessimism. We don't have any reason to be pessimistic. We need to be salt and light so that people can see Christ in us through our good works.