Should Christians Try to Improve Society?

Tomorrow morning I’ll be teaching on Jesus’ salt and light metaphors from the Sermon on the Mount, as part of our CounterCulture series at White Fields.

I found this quote in a book by John Stott, about the social responsibility of Christians as part of our identity as the salt of the Earth. Since salt has a healing and preserving effect, the idea is that Christians should have a healing and preserving effect on society.

There are some who would say, What’s the point in trying to make society better?  If Jesus could come back any minute, and this life is short anyway, then shouldn’t all our efforts be towards saving people out of this world, rather than “polishing a turd”, to put it crassly?

However, it seems to me that it is an inherent part of the calling of a Christian to make the world a better place, if for no other reason than to “let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Here is that John Stott quote:

Too often evangelical Christians have interpreted their social responsibility in terms only of helping the casualties of a sick society, and have done nothing to change the structures which cause the casualties. Just as doctors are concerned not only with the treatment of patients but also with preventive medicine and public health, so we should concern ourselves with what might be called preventive social medicine and higher standards of moral hygiene. However small our part may be, we cannot opt out of seeking to create better social structures, which guarantee justice in legislation and law enforcement, the freedom and dignity of the individual, civil rights for minorities and the abolition of social and racial discrimination. We should neither despise these things nor avoid our responsibility for them. They are part of God’s purpose for his people. Whenever Christians are conscientious citizens, they are acting like salt in the community.

As Sir Frederick Catherwood put it:‘To try to improve society is not worldliness but love. To wash your hands of society is not love but worldliness.’

Stott goes on to say that SALT is not all that the world needs. The world also needs LIGHT – the truth of God, ultimately found in the Gospel.

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