Monday meditations: Matt.5.14

“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.

Monday meditations: Luke 9.50

John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.” Luke 9.49-50

I am swamped with getting my dissertation done, so this week’s meditation is a short one (though I think one with great significance for the church). I think most of the time Christians have the opposite mindset: if you’re not for me, then you’re against me. If your doctrine, practice, and church government don’t look exactly like mine, then we are in some sense adversaries. Other times, churches work not to have this mindset and move to a position of neutrality, where we have our thing, and you have your thing and we just agree to coexist. The ecumenical movement seems to be able to get churches this far.

But this is not what Jesus was saying here. Think about what is going on here. Jesus is still training the Twelve, he hasn’t even gone to the cross yet (so Carman and Mel Gibson would see this as before Satan was defeated), and yet someone outside Jesus’ inner circle is already waging successful spiritual warfare in Jesus’ name. Where does this fit in our standard narrative? Who was this guy? No clues are given, but Jesus affirms the man’s ministry and tells the Twelve not to hinder him: he who is not against us is for us.

I don’t know where you are in terms of the life of the church, but this passage can be good to meditate on from a couple of angles. It might do you good to think about this from the perspective of the Twelve. Maybe the Spirit will show you ways you can move from an adversarial position with regard to the ministry of others, to one of at least neutrality (do not stop him), or better one of encouragement and support (he is for us).

You might also find the Spirit opening your eyes to people and ministries who are bringing the ministry of Jesus to you from unexpected places and/or in unexpected ways. The recipients of this guy’s ministry might have wondered what his connection to Jesus was, well, at least until the demons were cast out. Then they probably were less concerned about his credentials. The Spirit may nudge you about not rejecting ministry that is really the Spirit targeting you with teaching or solicitude unlooked for. Receive what the Spirit gives you.