by James Bergen
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:14-16, NLT).
Husband. Mother. Student. Accountant. Retiree. We all have many roles and labels in life. In Matthew 5, Jesus reveals a primary role for his followers—light. This is a key part of our identity, and it is incredibly significant. Israel is identified in this role in Isaiah 49:6, and Jesus himself is described as the light of the world in John 9:5. Now, all followers of Jesus join with him in his light-bringing mission in the world.
Notice the focus of Jesus’ declaration: “You are the light of the world.” It is part of the identity of one who knows and follows after Jesus. To be a follower of Jesus is to be sent on a mission, to live a life of witness, to be engaged in culture in such a way as to draw people heavenward or maybe even be a little heaven on earth. Jesus shatters the idea that mission is optional. It isn’t something that we do. Rather, it is who we are. To be a Christian is to live one’s life in relationship with God and others so that God is made known to those around us in real and practical ways. We are to shine so others might come to know him.
Applying this to our lives leaves us with endless possibilities. What might it look like for us to shine in the way Jesus talks about? Matthew 5 – 7 provide some practical ideas. Using the Sermon on the Mount, the immediate context of Jesus’ words, as a starting point our good deeds could include: helping comfort the mourning, making good moral and ethical choices, showing mercy, peacemaking, controlling our anger, asking for and granting forgiveness on a regular basis, treating the opposite sex respectfully, honoring our marriage partners, telling the truth, responding to those in the wrong with respect and dignity even when we are in the right, loving others (including our enemies), giving to the poor, being generous and leading non-anxious lives.
These things must be intentional choices in our lives, but the starting point is our relationship with Jesus. As we grow in him, all these various things will be the result. We are light. That is a given. How brightly will we shine? That is our choice.
May many come to know and praise our Father because of the lives we lead. May God’s kingdom come. May his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
James Bergen is the pastor of North Fresno (Calif.) MB Church.
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