How adventurous are you in the food department?
When I was growing up my Mom would try anything while my dad was strictly a “meat and two vegetables” kind of guy. When dad was asked how he liked his meat cooked, it was invariably “well done”. When he finally got to visit my wife and I after we had emigrated to the United States and he was introduced to the delights of hamburger, we finally persuaded him that the correct way to eat such a delicacy was to order it “medium”. From that day on he would regale the wait staff in his best lowland Scots accent with the instruction “mee-jum”.
My personal tastes run a little more exotic than my father’s in that I like cuisine from many different parts of the world. I especially like to try whatever is considered the national signature dish of any country I am visiting. I don’t always like them but I find it interesting why those choices have been made. I have sampled lutekefisk in Scandinavia , kimchee in Korea, risestaffel in Indonesia, and of course I’m particularly fond of haggis in Scotland!
The key thing about all these foods is that they stand out and are different from the ambience of my normal culinary intake.
It’s the same principle in advertising. No company wants their advertisements to be the same as everyone else’s, but rather they should stand out from the background milieu or ambience. Companies want their message to “break through clutter”. Sameness doesn’t cut it!
Companies design logos in bright primary colors to make them stand out and demand attention. No one wants to have their products or service fade into the humdrum ho-hum background with everyone else.
I was re-reading the so-called “sermon on the mount” in Matthew’s gospel when it struck me that Jesus did not want his followers to be wishy-washy, beige colored, blenders into their society! As an aside, I put sermon-on-the-mount in scare quotes because most modern scholars agree Jesus probably did not make formal “sermons” and we can surmise that this is a collection of his most memorable teachings and sayings delivered over a span of time. The natural amphitheatre of the hills rising from the Sea of Galilee would better qualify as a “mound” rather than a “mount”!
Here’s a sampling of the revolutionary teaching from Jesus:
One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them.
“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.
“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:1-16 NLT
I encourage you to read on in this passage because there’s a lot more there in the same vein.
I advisedly used the description “revolutionary teaching” because, if you think about it, everything Jesus advocates his followers to do is upside-down and backward according to common sense as perceived by our world. I didn’t even mention the “love your enemies” or “turn the other cheek” instructions! To say that his teachings break through the clutter and stand out from the ordinary constitutes the understatement to two millennia! They’re not just salty but extra spicy into the bargain!
It’s obvious that Jesus doesn’t want “stealth” followers or “ambient disciples” that blend into the background! He wants us to be “loud and proud” of our association with him! I need to add the disclaimer that by “loud and proud” I do not mean “impolite, disrespectful or obnoxious”, but rather we should seek opportunities to proclaim and explain the gospel whenever we can.
Jesus said we should “… let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father”, because after all, it’s not about us, but rather we should be drawing attention to God for all the right reasons!
It’s all to easy to fall for the doctrine of “don’t rock the boat” and “respect the sincerely-held beliefs of others” but that is manifestly NOT what Jesus instructed us to do. We are to be happy amidst persecution, slander and mocking, because then we know we are effectively challenging Satan’s regime. Love your enemies, indeed!
It may be comfortable to be an ambient christian going along to get along, but it doesn’t square with Jesus’ commission to go and tell the good news to everyone.
Let’s break out of the ambiance and get those lights shining so bright people can’t help but notice and praise God!
The Apostle Paul “gets” it: "For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile” Romans 1:16 NLT
Get it? Got it? Good!
Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black
P.S. if you’d like to read previous ruminations of mine they can be found at https://www.salvationarmyconcordca.org/chronicle/?category=Bible%20Study