Tonight we start a five month study of the Sermon on the Mount and its implications for our lives and our practice of medicine. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) Jesus teaches a ton about the Kingdom of God and how God intended us to live in it. Jesus makes three over-riding points about the kingdom that we will emphasize throughout this study:
- First, in Matt 4:17 Jesus says the Kingdom of God is here (some translations near). We discussed why this would be an outlandish statement to make to the Jews of his day. They believed that the Kingdom of God was somewhere far away and sometime far in the future. We spent some time discussing what the implications are for accepting that we are living in the Kingdom of God now.
- The Jews believed they could not enter the Kingdom until everyone lived by all of God’s laws and pleased their God. We discussed that Jesus taught that entry to the Kingdom is not dependent on a person’s moral performance but on their belief in him and only through him.
- In his sermon Jesus points out that to live the way God intends us to live in his Kingdom is a very counter-cultural life. We have to be prepared to not meet the expectations of our society and we have to swim against the tide so to speak.
We spent the evening talking about Matt 5:13-16, the passage in which he tells his followers that they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Many of us admitted to using salt on our food to some degree (being doctors I think we are sometimes hesitant to admit this knowing the harm too much salt can cause). We use salt as a flavor enhancer. But in Jesus’s day it was used as a preservative for their food. Food would be packed in salt to prevent it from rotting or decaying. Jesus says we are the preservative to prevent rot and decay in our society. So we discussed where we see rot and decay and the answer is all around us. In our profession we can’t help be confronted with people who are ill and in some sense ‘decaying.” But we see it in relationships that are broken, marriages that are coming apart, lives that are not saved, people impacted by the recent hurricanes, etc, etc. It is important to recognize that society’s response to decay is to turn away and avoid it if at all possible. Jesus says we are to run toward these issues and engage with them.
In the second half of the passage Jesus says we are the light of the world. We discussed what light does and what life is like without light. In Genesis 1 God creates light and that light brought order to what was previously chaos. Similarly, we are to turn chaos into order. It was also pointed out that the verb that Jesus uses in both vs 13 and 14 is “are.” That’s important because we sometimes think about these passages as if they say we ‘should be’, or ‘will be’, or ‘can become.’ But, no, it says we are salt and light. That means now we are salt and light. It is what He calls us to now. The next point is why we should be salt and light. It is not so we feel good about ourselves, not so we can gain heaven or simply cause people need help with the issues. In Vs 16 Christ gives us the answer – we are to do it so that “they may see your good works and praise your Father in Heaven.” In other words, people will eventually come to faith from our efforts, even if those deeds are not strictly evangelical.
We finished the evening by sharing when we have felt we were being salt and light and in what situations do we find ourselves now in which we need to be Salt and Light to those around us. To the first question there were some sharing about when our members have shared the Gospel with their patients, went on mission trips or prayed with their patients. But it was also expressed that these opportunities are not daily events for most of us and we need to be salt and light in our daily lives. It was proposed that being exceptional physicians, allaying fears and concerns, using our talents to heal and doing the above and beyond for our patients is also a daily way to be salt and light. Likewise, being a source of Christ’s love to our family, neighbors and those we encounter randomly is a daily challenge that meets Jesus’s calling on our lives.