Salt and Light in a Bygone Age

I am pleased to present another post by my favorite guest-blogger, Pastor Bruce Roeder. He is a fellow Biblical Counselor and dear friend of ours. Bruce is Pastor of Discipleship at Missio Dei Fellowship in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 

I believe you will find these words challenging and encouraging! Recommend your husband to take a look!

This week our pastor started a series on biblical manhood. One of the things our pastor said is that he grew up in a Christian household at a time when biblical manhood was better modeled within the culture as a whole.

I think this means that intentionally or not men still had the idea that men and women were different and had different roles. For example in our day (my wife and I are in our 50’s) we knew “ the man is the head of the home.” We “knew this” because our parents “knew this” and even if they didn’t know what that meant biblically nor how to apply it fully they at least “knew it” as a principle.

I think there were lots of things our parents “knew” even if they didn’t specifically know what the Bible said or where it said it. It seems that back in their day the culture was more “Christianized” than secularized.
Here’s some positive examples.

1. Our parents did not, would not divorce.
Without going into details there were circumstances on both sides of the family that could have easily led to divorce. In each case the scenario involved one of the partners being the stronger and sticking with the weaker. To them this meant coping or in biblical terms being long suffering. In both cases the Bible was not used; yet the principle of stick-with-it-ness was in force. This is in deep contrast to today when people divorce (if they bother to get married in the first place) for the slightest of self-centered reasons.

Years later when my wife and I married and not yet Christians the principle of stick-with-it-ness would come into play. By the grace of God we held it together but it was our parent’s attitude of stick-with-it-ness that God used. In this way they were salt and light.

They would have also seen marriage as between one man and one woman. They would have also seen that sex within marriage was the only proper expression of sex. I do not know whether they were chaste or not before marriage. What I do know is that if they were not they would have known it was wrong.

This is not the case today where many grow up in the shadow of the relativism of my generation, an “ism” that my wife and I also experienced in the late 60’s and 70’s.

2. Our parents always had jobs and our fathers were always considered the main bread winners.
Our parents were products of the Great Depression and World War 2. Tom Brockaw called the generation the greatest because of the sense of responsibility, the sense of patriotism, the sense of sacrifice and the sense of “common sense.”

My mom was too young for WW2 being just 15 when the war ended but the other three parents all served in the US Army. The country as a whole saw there was a job to do and they did it.

This meant that the whole country had a stake in the war. Everyone sacrificed and everyone knew someone in the military. The goal was to win, to come home and raise a family.

Today we are isolated from war. Our wars are fought by volunteers and the folks back home have little idea of sacrifice, nor is the goal necessarily to win the war and come home and raise a family. (Thank God for our brave volunteers.)

When the war ended our parents all got jobs although there were periods of time in both cases where mom was at home with the kids. In my case, my mom stayed home with my sister and I until I was well into my teens. The “work and responsibility” principles were instilled in both my wife and I. She had a job at 14 and I had one at 15. If we wanted to go to college then we’d better pay our own way. Our parents simply didn’t think in terms of “free lunch” and they passed on the work ethic to us.

I remember that I wanted to play baseball in High School. My mom thought I should have a job. I was also interested in girls. My mom helped me decide between job and baseball by telling me in no uncertain terms that my parents had no intention of paying for my dates. Prior to this conversation I had no idea that money had something to do with going on dates!

The principle of “you work” then “you play” was part of their way to teach their idiot son the responsibility of work and paying your own way in life.

One of the other biblical principles our parents handed down was an aversion to debt and a corresponding plan to have something in the bank. In their day the goal was to save for a house and to make as large a down payment as possible. The government was not going to help you unless you were a G.I. and could get a G.I. loan. This was meant as a thank you from a grateful country for their service.

Even with that kind of help the mentality of save what you could encouraged hard work and responsible home buying just as it discouraged impulse buying and credit card debt. I recall my folks telling me at age 18 to get a credit card but only to show I had a good credit rating. They further counseled that I should pay the card off within 30 days as this would avoid interest. This is a practice we’ve continued to this day. The credit card companies make little from us.

I also remember buying our first house. Conventional wisdom was you had to have at least a 10-20% down payment and that your payments including property taxes should never exceed what you take home in a week. The reasoning was buy only what you need and buy only what can you afford within the above boundaries.

This is in contrast to when we sold our first home and moved into a condo. We needed to roll over very little by the way of a loan and we were flabbergasted when the bank officer encouraged us to borrow all the way up to what we could have borrowed-a number 5x what we needed! Her counsel was, “you know you can afford something much bigger.” Huh?

Our parents were salt and light in their financial priorities and my wife and I benefitted from them.

3. A third area of influence was religion.
Our parents were influenced by the prevailing cultural norms of their time and one of those norms was “there is a God” and unless you were Jewish you were a Christian of some sort. What that meant to any degree depended on the individual and the seriousness by which they thought it through. Never-the-less, there was a God and that meant something in-so-far as right and wrong was concerned. There was a prevailing Judeo-Christian ethic drawn from the Old and New Testament. Our parents could not have said where it was but they did know it was there and they had a sense that ethic was of God.

This did not mean they always did right. What it did mean is that they had some idea of what right and wrong was and our parents modeled this knowledge in an imperfect way just like everybody else.  But at least the ethic was there and it was known.

Today ethical lines are blurred so much that many do not even know there is a right and wrong so everyone does what is right in their own eyes.

I remember clashing with my father on this issue. My wife and I grew up during the Vietnam War and the great social upheaval in the period. As teenagers we would have thought Woodstock was cool and all that meant and would have thought favorably on hippies and whatever that meant to our juvenile minds. Suffice to say that much would clash with the Judeo-Christian ethics of our parents.

I remember an English teacher in 1969 telling us that “values are relative man.” This essentially meant to do what is right in your own eyes because everything is relative. I remember spouting this nonsense to my dad (probably in regards to me getting a job) and I also remember him blowing his cork and him telling me that as snotty nosed 15-year-old that I didn’t know anything and that hopefully when I grew up I’d know better. My dad was tough, but fair. I got the job and had to contribute something to the car insurance after I got a license as well as pay for my dates and gas.

Our parents religious values for the most part reflected what we’d call traditional values and many of those values were rooted in Scripture whether they knew it or not.

All this adds up to say that things are different today and certainly our story is not exactly the same as others in our generation. I think it also adds up to mean that the culture as it has changed over the last 50 years has influenced the church far more than the other way around.

In other words the church has lost much of its saltiness (influence).

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. [15] Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. [16] In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.(Matthew 5:13-16 ESV)

I’m glad to go to a church that seeks to be salt and light. The men is an excellent place to start.