Theology, Nature and the Arts as Spiritual Ambassadors for the Christian Faith
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors 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-colors 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. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. 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. -- The Message
For its inspirational power, I would commend to you the film Amazing Grace, which chronicles the life of William Wilberforce and his heroic campaign to abolish slavery in the British Empire in the early 1800s. Wilberforce’s deeply-held Christian convictions moved him to work for the transformation of the society in which he lived and he was used of God in astonishing ways.
He was not only instrumental in ending the slave trade; he also worked with the reformer, Hannah More, in creating the Association for the Better Observance of Sunday. The goal was to provide all children with regular education in reading, personal hygiene, and religion.
He was one of the founders of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals which inspired the creation of such societies all over the world. And he also worked to encourage Christian missionaries to go to India.
In 1797 Wilberforce published A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes of this Country Contrasted with Real Christianity. Under the shorter title, A Practical View of Christianity, the book is still in print today and is continuing to have a powerful impact.
Amazon.com describes it as being “concerned with convincing those who call themselves Christians to pursue the real nature and principles of the religion which they profess. Christianity is not a mere morality, to be held in private. Christianity is revelation from God, bringing new rights and correspondent duties. It is an entire way of life that requires diligence and study and that should affect every aspect of the Christian’s public and private life.”
William Wilberforce was one human being who truly lived as the salt of the earth. Near the close of the film, when Wilberforce is shown standing before Parliament finally achieving victory over the slave trade, Lord Fox (played by Michael Gambon), stands to speak in response. His opening words, sadly, still ring true today, “When people think of great men, rarely do they think of peaceful men.”
Lord Fox went on to say that a Napoleon comes to mind when we speak of greatness but Napoleon was ruthless and surrounding all he did were his personal ambitions and the horrors of the wars he waged. Ultimately, he suffered complete and utter defeat; he was conquered. Wilberforce, on the other hand, having completed his selfless quest for justice, would go home to his family, lay his head on his pillow, and go to sleep knowing he had truly changed the world for the better.
Wilberforce is a true hero. Do we aspire to such greatness? Do we work to instill in our children, in our grandchildren, do we encourage in our friends, in our fellow Christians, such an aspiration to greatness? Do we expect of ourselves and our fellow Christians a saltiness that preserves the good and brings a refreshing flavor to all of life?
Let us pray that our Heavenly Father will give us the courage to strive for the highest goals, to flee every temptation to be mediocre. Let us pray that He will enable us to aspire to greatness and that He will open our hearts in joy to His call to holiness. May He free us from the fear of failure and shake us all out into the world.
Featured photograph: Unfinished portrait of the MP and abolitionist William Wilberforce by English artist Thomas Lawrence, 1828.