6 - Let your light shine

Greg Aikins on February 7, 2020

(Commands of Jesus in Matthew)

You are like salt for all mankind.  But if salt loses its saltiness, there is no way to make it salty again.  It has become worthless, so it is thrown out and people trample on it.

You are like light for the whole world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead he puts it on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house.  In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven (Matt. 5:13-16, TEV – emphasis mine).

Salt that isn’t salty and lamps that end up under bowls don’t make much sense.  Grandma’s bread with salt that isn’t salty would make us think she forgot to put salt in the dough.  And a light placed under an object that doesn’t allow for it to illuminate anything would make us think that the homeowner doesn’t care whether we stumble on our way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  Use of un-salty salt and unseen lamps might make us wonder whether the user is all right in the head!

Let’s notice several things about Jesus’ similitudes.  First of all, remember the pronoun “you” is plural.  Jesus is speaking to his followers as a group and thus to us as the community of disciples.  We tend to individualize this passage but it is really about the presence of the church – local and beyond local - in the world.  Jesus is concerned about the cumulative effect of the lives of his followers.

Secondly, Jesus assumes that we his followers will imitate him and be interested in people outside of ourselves.  In our Lord’s mind, the church exists for the sake of the world.  John 3:16 does not say, “For God so loved the church” but rather, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son.”

Thirdly, our Lord assumes that we will need to draw on him and be at peace with one another if we are to be what humankind truly needs (John 8:12; Mark 9:50; Col. 4:6).  Our distinctive spiritual flavor and our illuminating presence flows from our relationships - with the Son of God and with our fellow disciples.  John reminds us that “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).  A disciple-making community where there is spiritual depth and interpersonal authenticity is what will meet the real long-term needs of people.

Most important however is the person to which all of this points.  We are intended to be salt and light rather than tasteless and dark, or else no one will give glory to the One to whom all glory belongs!  Jesus uses some stark contrasts here to remind us, his disciples, that we are the “necessary outsiders.”  The society around us is in a bad way, says our Lord, without my influence and yours as authentic Christ-followers.  Those around us cannot “taste and see that the Lord is good” unless we provide them with obvious examples of Christ-like flavor and illumination. The unbelievable truth is that our family, friends, colleagues and neighbors – near and far - will see Christ only through our presence among them.  If the Lord is to accomplish his mission of bringing the influence of the Gospel to every corner of the globe, we are indispensable!

How shall we then stay salty and bright?  “The smallest unit of church” (Matt. 18:20) may help improve our saltiness and increase our brilliance for God.  Finding one or two other disciples with whom we can take in the word of God, confess our sins, and pray for those we know who have yet to know Christ will help us.  In such communities and through such practices, we are more likely to become salt that can be shaken daily out of the salt shaker and individual stars that together shine in the universe of people around us (Phil. 2:15).  God grant that others might draw nearer to Christ because of us!

For reflection:  What is God saying to you about becoming “saltier” and more luminescent for Jesus?