“You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.” Matt. 5.14
The Sermon on the Mount is so familiar it is sometimes difficult to read it with fresh eyes and an open heart. What caught me the other day, however, was the bit in vv.17-20 where Jesus explains that He has not come to abolish the Law, rather He has come to fulfill the Law, which will not pass away until the end of all things. Jesus warns, “whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” Of course, Jesus goes on to give some examples of laws that have been interpreted in a way that relaxes those laws from their intended purpose. This reminded me of discussions I had with people at the Vineyard about Matt. 18 (especially in the wake of my sermon). Those who were uncomfortable with the message invariably made some attempt at relaxing what Jesus commanded there. Theological history is rife with instances of people employing various mental gymnastics in an effort to relax the commands of God. Religion itself, as Barth explained, is unbelief and rebellion against the Word of God that comes to us as a command. It is the task of those who would lead – prophets, pastors, theologians – to point out and disallow human, sinful, often religiously masked attempts to relax what God has commanded us to do.
My reading for the next day took me to Ps. 4, where David says, “How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?” Why is it that we prefer vain teaching? Why is it that we would rather listen to people teach us to disobey the Lord and not follow in His way?
Bonhoeffer commented on 5.14 in Discipleship, noting that Jesus does not say the disciples need to become the light of the world or learn how to shine like lights of the world, instead Jesus says they are the light of the world, by virtue of being disciples. All that is left is to live up to what they are: “Now they must be what they really are – otherwise they are not followers of Jesus.”
Spend some time this week thinking and praying about what it means to be the light of the world (and/or salt of the earth in v.13). How’s your light shining? Are you living up to what Jesus said you are? These are important questions and ones you cannot trust yourself to answer well, so ask the Holy Spirit to answer them for you. Then wait for an answer because it will come.