Pradip Lamichhane, Nepal Friends Evangelical Church.
This is an edited extract from a talk given by Pradip at this year’s FWCC conference in Kenya.
When I first heard the theme of the world gathering I found it difficult to understand. After long silence and seeking I found my awareness growing and finally I knew how really important the theme is for all of us in this time and this world and for Friends. “Being Salt and Light, Friends living the Kingdom of God in a Broken World”? How good to be salt and light in this broken world.
I was sitting in front of Friends at the 2009 IPC Planning meeting, searching their faces anxiously and asking myself what this great variety of people are talking about. Finally we all agreed to choose this theme of Salt and Light. This has got so much meaning and it is a living sentence. For Quakers this is a moving sentence: for evangelicals this is a gospel sentence; for liberals this is cool. You might wonder how come this young man was there. I was a young and silent co-clerk of this gathering planning committee. Did I just say that I was a silent clerk? It is true that I was. I do not know why World Office chose me for this task, but I am thankful for it has provided me with great learning opportunities.
Let me come to the point, and let me become a theologian for a while, relating the following Gospel passages into a more familiar idiom: In Matthew 5:13-16 it says “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavours of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste Godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.” Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
In verse 13 we read, “You are the salt of the earth,” and in the Greek it is “You and you alone are the salt of the earth. Why did Jesus say that to this small group of uneducated, poor, humble, Galilean disciples? He was telling them that although the world’s population is rotting, they as believers were to function like salt in the world. Why? They alone were different from the world.
I would like to change these verses a little bit more here. Why did Jesus say such things to a small group of Friends, to a Religious Society of Friends? Are we Friends functioning like salt in the world? Are we alone different from the world? Friends are very small in number in the world if we compare ourselves with other denominations. We chose this Conference theme as “Being Salt and Light, Friends living the Kingdom of God in a Broken World” because it is the truth of all us. In Ephesians 2:3-4 we read, “Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions…”
We are to be in the world so that the world may benefit by our difference from the world. Therefore we must also avoid the error of being one with the world and embracing its values and ways. These warnings are applicable to us today. We all want to be materialistic and are working very hard. This is not the way, rather, we must be as different as salt is different from dead meat. We must be different from the broken world. We must be in the world but not of the world, so that the world may be helped by us.
We must be different and must glory in our difference.
Friends often ask me why I am still in Nepal as I have a valid visa for the US and UK. People spend millions to go there. I’ve tried to answer them that I am really OK here. They think I am a fool, but yet I think they are mistaken. I am happy as I am, I will try to make a difference from where I am and what I have.
I am happy to support my church as I can. I am happy that I am able to support few poor children to attend school. I am happy I that I am able to run a small NGO to support poor people. I am happy that I am able to feed my old parents. I am happy to play with my son. I am happy to give tours to Quaker friends who come to visit Nepal. I am happy doing Green IT stuff. I call this a sustainable project for mankind. Others helped me to be an IT guy, so I help others so they could help more people. It is like a gospel which keeps on spreading. I share this experience with others and encourage them to do the same-help others as you have been helped.
During my childhood and teenage years, I experienced poverty, crying every day for food so I understand that a small help can change the lives of people and bring peace and joy. Don’t think that if you are supporting one person he or she only is benefited. Rather, there will be several people who will be indirectly assisted. So let us try to make a difference together.
When Jesus said, “You alone are the salt of the earth,” this was a high compliment and great encouragement. This statement gives every Friend great dignity and self-esteem. Thus, I feel sorry for those are trying to be like the world in speech, in dress, in value, and in fashion. Only difference can assist, not similarity.
Let’s talk about how salt functions as a preservative. Now we must realize that, like salt, Christians might irritate the wound at first. Remember, Friends are not sugar; they are salt. But I say, welcome the irritation that Friends bring about. Welcome the discomfort that the salt of the earth initially creates, because salt will bring great benefit.
Salt is necessary for flavour. Without Friends and the gospel they proclaim and practice this world would be insipid. There would be no true flavour in the world. There would be no true joy in this world. The company of Friends gives flavour and joy to the world. We can prove this by examining worldly parties and such celebrations. They are boring, tasteless, and insipid. As Friends, we have the purposive function to provide flavour and taste to the world. The world is without hope. It may be our responsibility to bring hope, peace and the helping hand as we can.
Salt is white, symbolizing purity. Friends are to be in the world and yet live purely, lives of difference and enhancement. As I said before, Friends should glory in their difference. They are citizens of heaven who are living in this broken world for its benefit. As such, they must constantly resist the temptation of being like the world and must be like Christ.
Salt also was used as a fertilizer. Friends must function in a way that promotes the growth of that which is good in the world. They must oppose evil and promote good. In God’s common grace, there is much good in his world, and Friends must support and promote that which is useful to mankind.
Salt causes people to become thirsty. In the same way, Friends should cause people to thirst for peace, justice and earth-care. I don’t mean all the people of the world will do this, but those who respond to God will. It is through us that God generates a thirst for Godself in others, and they will come to us and ask, “Why are you different? Why are you so full of hope and peace and joy even in the midst of troubles?” When they do this, you then can tell them about Friends.
So we must ask ourselves: Are we functioning as salt in our society?
Worldliness destroys saltiness my dear Friends. Jesus said that if salt loses its saltiness, it would become useless and worthless. People can lose their saltiness through replacing it with worldliness. When we conform to the patterns of the world, when we embrace the broken values of the world, when we become materialistic, sensual and pleasure-seeking, we lose our saltiness. We become like the world—rotting, rotten, and foul. We must realize that we are to be in the world but not of it. Although we are in the world, we must focus on Jesus Christ and his teachings.
We are to be different.