14 Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, 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 in heaven.”
LIGHT OF HOPE
We don’t think too much about light and darkness these days: we have light at the flick of a switch. But the imagery of light that Jesus uses here is not lost on us simply because we live in well lit cities: it is because we live in an age of relativism and tolerance. I’m told that some years ago the President of Cornell University addressed a meeting of educators at Harvard University. He was speaking of the need for educational reform and was stressing the need for universities to take seriously the students’ intellectual and moral development. As he said this there were astonished and angry gasps from the audience: ‘Who is going to do the instructing?’ one angry student demanded. ‘Whose morality are we going to follow?’ The audience applauded. The university president sat down: he had no reply.
In an earlier age the answer would have been to point to two thousand or so years of accumulated wisdom and to the moral law of God found in the Old and New Testaments. Today it is a different ball-game: few educators or political leaders would challenge the prevailing assumption that there is no morally binding objective authority or truth above the individual.
THE GOOD NEWS
‘How then do we reach this age with God’s good news?’ we ask. ‘How can we be the light of the world?’ The context of Jesus’ words in verse 16 gives us the clue: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven…”
‘Everything you are, everything you do,’ Jesus was saying to those who would follow him, ‘must reflect all that I have taught you. For that is how others will come to see the mind and the will of God. It won’t happen otherwise.’
It’s an awesome thought. It involves all of us: no-one who calls themselves a Christian is exempt. All of us as individuals are called upon to reflect the light of God in our lives to the world. Whether we like it or not, when people come to know that we go to church they look at us. They want to know whether we are genuine, whether what we profess is true; underneath the cry for freedom, the cry to do things ‘my way’, there is a cry for help.
Jesus is saying that his followers will be responsible for bringing others to the worship of the one true God. In fulfillment of the words of Isaiah 49:6 they will take the news of God’s salvation, light of the world, to the ends of the earth. Through the light of our lives others will be drawn to find out about Jesus. Through the words of our lips people will hear the good news, and come to glorify God on the final day. All of us have a part to play.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it like this: ‘Flight into the invisible is a denial of the call. A community of Jesus which seeks to hide itself has ceased to follow him.’
- the way in which the first followers of Jesus worked out his words – in the larger context of the Sermon on the Mount they worked at their marriages, loved their enemies, prayed for their persecutors, and cared for the poor (see, for example, Acts 6:1-7);
- the fact that good deeds are not the gospel or a gospel tactic, but are the fruit of the gospel;
- the way in which people drawn by good deeds will see the truth of the gospel.
Let me encourage you to pray
© John G. Mason, Reason for Hope – 40 Days of Bible Readings and Reflections – 2016. All Rights Reserved.