You Are Light
The last couple of days we have been exploring the salt metaphor Jesus uses for his disciples. Today we will look at what it means to be light.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, 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 who is in heaven.
Light, when used metaphorically can carry a few different meanings. It typically has a holiness meaning attached to it. Israel’s role in the world was to be a light to Gentiles—a community that represented and reflected God’s holiness. Paul says that God himself “dwells in unapproachable light”, (1 Tim. 6:16) a reference to his holiness. John particularly often uses light to convey revelation as well. Light always dispels darkness and reveals that which was once in the dark. Light therefore, reveals what is true. Biblical authors also often use light and darkness in contrast between good and evil.
With the reference to a city on a hill Jesus could have in mind the Festival of Lights, also known as the Festival of Dedication or Hanukkah. This festival commemorated the reconsecration of the temple in 164 BC after it had been defiled. Jerusalem would be lit up with lanterns and visible for miles around. This was a festival instituted by the Maccabees in the inter-testamental period of Israel’s history.
Similar to the negative angle of salt losing its taste and being thrown out, Jesus emphasizes how silly it would be to attempt to hide a city on a hill or to light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, light is meant to illuminate and provide light for those around to see.
So by telling his followers that they are to be light, Jesus is telling them that they must be holy, set apart, different from the culture. In doing this, they must illuminate truth. They cannot fully assimilate to the culture, they must be distinct from the culture.
Yesterday we talked about the 4 different postures Christians can take in relation to the culture:
- purity from
- defensive against
- relevant to
- faithful presence within
Jesus call for his followers to be light to the world eliminates the “relevant to” approach which usually results in a loss of distinction between Christians and the culture.
ff to 4:05 for additional content
For additional content today I’ve included episode one in the first season of a podcast called this cultural moment. This week we are exploring what it looks like for Christians to engage faithfully with culture. This podcast is maybe the best I’ve ever heard at assessing the current cultural landscape and discussing how Christians can live faithfully in it. I’d strongly encourage you to check out the whole season.
Listen to this culture moment podcast for today.