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TONY ELDER: Our actions, words, character should exert Christian influence on others

Several times recently I've happened upon a particular type of small creature. It seemed like it had been a long time since I had seen one, so I especially took note of these various recurring encounters. I'm certain that the soggy conditions in our area from all the rain has contributed to their more frequent appearance.

I'm referring to slugs -- those slimy, slithering, slow-moving members of the snail family.

Whenever I see one of those creatures, my mind goes back to when I was a kid. I suppose it's safe for me to confess what I and other children commonly did to slugs back then -- after all, I have no sponsors to lose or pending book deals to be canceled due to what some people might consider my bad behavior from many decades ago. We used to pour salt on those poor slugs in order to watch them slowly leave a slimy trail culminating in their death.

At the time, I didn't know why it happened. But now I understand that it has something to do with the high moisture content in those creatures -- the salt causes them basically to die from severe dehydration.

It's interesting that the same substance we humans look upon favorably and intentionally sprinkle on our food to add flavor results in death for those slugs. Of course doctors remind us that too much of that mineral isn't good for our health either.

Jesus declared that we as His followers would be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). In other words, we should be affecting the world in which we live and the people whom we are around. Through our actions, words, and character we should be exerting an influence for Christ.

However, just like with salt, not everyone reacts to that impact in the same way. The Apostle Paul stated such a principle, only using a slightly different analogy. He described us as "the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life" (II Corinthians 2:15-16).

Some people will be drawn to our saltiness. They will view it as a positive additive to the world which lends hope, faith, comfort and joy. But others will see it as a negative, even harmful, force. To them it's a revealer of sin, a producer of guilt, and a reminder of coming judgment before God. To one, it's a source of life and flavor. To the other, it's a reminder of the sliminess of their sin that leads to death.

It's no wonder that those for whom such saltiness causes inward pain would tend to lash out at the purveyors of their discomfort. They want to silence the words of truth, twist the motives behind their actions, and malign their character.

While believers should take no pleasure in the conviction and guilt their witness might cause others, neither should we seek to tone down our saltiness in order to lessen that effect. We have to guard against the tendency to be less vocal, to compromise our beliefs, to hide our faith and the actions which spring from it.

If we try to diminish our saltiness, it will be at the cost of a close relationship with Christ.

Some people are going to appreciate your life of faith, while others won't. But regardless of whether your influence is welcomed or despised, you need to keep being the salt of the earth which Jesus has called you to be.

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.