“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”
Le Chambon is a small village in southern France. Its residents turned their village into a refuge for approximately 3500 Jews between 1940 and 1944.
Shortly after the Vichy government signed a treaty with Nazi Germany, the local church pastors, Andre and his assistant Édouard, laid out the task before them: “to resist steadfastly with the weapons of the Spirit. To love one another, to forgive, to do good to the enemy – that is our task. But to do this without fleeing from the world, without craven submission, without cowardice. We will resist when our enemies demand from us things that our teachings forbid or that contradict the commands of the gospel.”
But how? It’s one thing to say this. But it’s something else entirely to build a community that can withstand that kind of storm.
It turns out that an essential part of the work was done before Pastor Andre arrived. Shortly after he was called to Le Chambon, he found that there was a very strong emphasis among his flock on the reading and study of Scripture. In that part of France, the Huguenots – the French Protestants – had been doing something called “Lecture” for centuries: the reading of Scripture aloud, daily at the family dinner table.
Andre’s predecessor had also set up a structure for Bible study meetings that proved essential during the war: Every two weeks the pastor would meet with thirteen members to discuss the Bible and talk about how it related to contemporary life. Those thirteen would then go out to the thirteen districts in the parish to read the texts and connect them to the lives of the people there.
That salt and light discipline saved Jewish lives. And it was a discipline that made the Christians in Le Chambon very different from their neighbors: “Why do they read the Bible so much? Why do they take what Jesus said so literally?”
Now, we’re not facing anything like the Second World War, but the church is faced with this reality: A lot of lives and institutions are breaking down, and falling apart. The church, more and more, will need to be a people who can welcome spiritual refugees from the culture around us.
The ‘religions’ and ideologies that have captured peoples’ hearts and minds, are doing at least two, very destructive things:
- There is a lot of demonization of groups of people.
- People are disintegrating at the level of their identities.
Friends, that’s a very difficult world in which to have community, much less a nation. Demonization, disintegration and those fertilized by a lot of decadence, are pushing individuals, families and communities to the brink. I am seeing a lot of this, as a result: People who do not believe – who are not Christian – are beginning to see the state of our culture, clearly, and are looking for refuge.
The church – a group of people who follow the Christ of the Sermon on the Mount – can become a strong place of refuge from the storm. The call of the church is to become a different, salt and light, Christ-centered people, and so become a spiritual refuge from a culture that many people are trying to leave.
If you need to ‘leave’, the church is here. If you are already a member of a church, resolve today to be/become the kind of people who can be a spiritually safe place of refuge.
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I pastor Mattituck Presbyterian Church, on the North Fork of Long Island. You can visit our website, HERE, and if you would like to view our worship services, you can join us on Facebook at 9:00am (Contemporary) and 11:15am (Traditional Worship Service): FACEBOOK, or you can watch recent messages on YOUTUBE.