I wrote this post and set it up to be published before I figured out that I had previously written on these verses. I was about to hit the delete key but after reading the two posts, there are enough differences in the observations, that I decided to publish this one.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 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. 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 5:14–16, ESV)
When I think of light, I think of two main characteristics:
- Its ability to dispel darkness
- Its ability to serve as a guide
Have you ever experienced a power outage where you walk into a room, flick the light switch and then remember that there is no power? We are conditioned to turn the light on so that we can see what is in the room we enter. The light from the electric bulb will dispel the darkness in the room, allowing us to see what is in there.
Jesus is not saying that we glow in the dark and dispel physical darkness. But his is saying that our lives should be lived in such a way that we dispel spiritual darkness.
How can we dispel darkness?
We are told in John 9:5 that Jesus claimed that he himself is the light of the world. When we demonstrate Jesus to the world around us we are reflectors of that light which can change hearts and minds and bring them into relationship with God.
Serve as Guide
A city on a hill can be easily identified at night by the light it emits. If you are traveling through the valley at night, the light from the city will allow you to maintain your bearing and get to your destination.
How can we service as a guide?
Jesus tells us in the verses quoted above that we are such a guide when we demonstrate the effectiveness of the Gospel to change lives. The fact that we are different than we were should be some proof of the claims of the gospel.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29:
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (ESV)
What Paul is saying is that God takes men and women who have nothing that the world values and turns them into ambassadors who demonstrate the power of God to change lives. Those changed lives are the light on a hill that should draw others into the power of the Gospel.
What these verses are not saying
These verses are not a mandate for Christians to “take back our country” or to force a moral code on those who are unwilling to be subjected to it. There is nothing in Scripture that tells me that God is satisfied with behavioral modification. God is interested in the heart. Change the heart and behavioral change will follow.
We are called to dispel the darkness by growing in our relationship to God and being obedient to what he has called us to do. We are to be a beacon of hope to a world that desperately needs something to be hopeful about.
It is my hope that the church will increasingly be that light . . .