"You are the salt of the earth...You are the light of the world.A town built on a hill cannot be hidden...In the same way, let your light shine before others,that they may see your good deedsand glorifyyour Father in heaven." ~Matthew 5:13-16
I find it inexplicable why it is socially unacceptable to speak to others about faith, in the workplace for example, even when you and the other person both know that you share the same faith. There could be a room full of people of the same faith, and if one member of the group says anything about God, a feeling of taboo permeates the air. I am not referring to Christians trying to evangelize to nonbelievers in public. I am writing specifically about the idea that the "political correctness" of today has gone so far, that you and I cannot have a discussion about a biblical theme that intrigues us because it might offend someone who isn't even part of our conversation. It seems to me no different than banning baseball conversations between two Red Sox fans because they may offend a Yankees fan! Then again, this is actually not a new phenomenon. The same has been true for 2000 years. Jesus cautions us not to fall away when trouble or persecution comes because of the word (Matthew 13:21). Paul challenges us to have courage (Romans 8:31-39). The fear brought upon by "political correctness" should not separate us from our faith. It is God who justifies, not society. The writer of Hebrews (10:32-35) encourages us to not throw away our confidence even when we are publicly exposed to insult. These are just a few of the passages I encountered when I sought relief and encouragement on this issue. There are certainly hundreds of other examples throughout the Scriptures, where individuals were persecuted. We should take comfort in letting our light shine before others and not letting secular societal norms hide our faith, our words, or our good deeds.
In Luke 15, a "prodigal" son asks his father for his portion of the inheritance only to move away and lose everything. Shamed, he returns to a father, who welcomes him back with open arms, and an envious elder brother, who is outraged because he never gets the recognition he feels he deserves.
What is most interesting, is that each of the three characters in this story is motivated by different factors. The younger son is motivated, at first by a need for autonomy. He wants to be on his own and be able to choose his own course. The younger son is also motivated by extrinsic factors, immediate gratification, and things he does not feel he can get at home. After he loses everything, he is motivated by a need for relatedness. He wants to come back to the one person he knows will still be there to take him back, even if he has to work for his acceptance.
The elder son, who remains at home and always follows the rules, is perhaps motivated by a need for competence. He is also extrinsically motivated by the avoidance of punishment. This brother feels deserving of praise because he has worked diligently and behaved according to the father's rules all along. Then he feels let down, when it is the undeserving son who gets the recognition. The elder son shows however, that he too, is willing to distant himself from the father, in order to get what he wants. It is only the father then, who demonstrates unwavering love. He lives by unselfish motives, willing to accept both of his sons, after each has disrespected him. What is it that intrinsically motivates the father? We all have interdependent needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. If one of those needs is thwarted, our intrinsic motivation is hindered. Conditions that support our psychological need for autonomy facilitate our intrinsic motivation by fostering a sense of volition and initiative. We have an innate need to feel competent when working towards meeting meaningful challenges. Our vitality depends on our relationships with others as well as our relationship with God. As in the case of each brother, when one of these needs are not met, our motives limit our ability to live by faith.
"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 4:2
One of my favorite, this verse has a soothing effect when I need a reminder to slow down and remember what is truly important in life. It's short and to the point. Stop thinking of yourself, it tells me; place God first, then others, then yourself. Stay calm: what do we gain from being harsh towards others? What's the rush? And the hardest part, show love towards others even when they show otherwise.
As one of the most revealing blocks of scripture, The Sermon on the Mount begins by telling us that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit (Matthew 5). Furthermore, it states that the meek will inherit the earth. What is it that motivates the poor in spirit? What does it take to be meek? Both refer to being humble and patient in a world in which pride, blame, and instant gratification are the norm. Being poor in spirit is motivated by the intrinsic joy and satisfaction of bringing the Kingdom of God to others. It is fueled by the desire to love our neighbors, including our enemies, as we love ourselves. It requires great personal sacrifice in the face of adversity and persecution. On the other hand, pride and boastfulness are motivated by extrinsic factors such as the desire for superiority, the pressures to fit in, as well as material rewards.