Shining Our Lights
This week’s Gospel reading could not make it any clearer that we are to put ourselves “out there” in the proclamation of our faith. Matt 5:13-20 has Jesus telling us that we are the salt of the Earth and that we had best not let that salt lose its taste or it will be thrown out. He also tells us that we are the “light of the world” and that one does not hide one’s light under a bushel basket but rather puts it on a lampstand for all to see. We are to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
So, what does this mean for us practically? It means, I think, that we should never lose our zest (salt) for the life we have been given or for the faith that fuels that life. We should embrace our existence in God’s Kingdom with joy and enthusiasm. I know, that is easier said than done for many of us. We all know or have been ourselves in difficult situations. Situations where we are broken, struggling and despairing. We would be blessed (hopefully we have been), when someone with a zest and joy for our Lord lifts us up and helps to provide the healing that we all need from time to time. It is therefore important to maintain that zest so that we may share it, especially with those in need of an uplift.
Additionally, when Jesus talks about letting your light shine before others, He is talking specifically about sharing the Good News of God’s Kingdom. If we have received the gift of grace from God, what could possibly be our response other than to share that gift and what it means for us with others? This does not mean that we are standing on a street corner shouting about Jesus or being the crazy-haired guy at a football game holding up a John 3:16 sign. Nor does it mean that we corner people in an elevator and exclaim “hey let me tell you some great news!” In fact, I would not recommend this tactic as it tends to be oft putting (unless that is truly who you are, in which case, go for it). This really, simply means live your life according to what you claim to believe. Show your gratitude for God’s gift in the way you treat and interact with others. Don’t be shy about letting people know you are going to church to worship God or are involved in a particular ministry. Be open to the conversations that this sharing can bring about. You never know what will grow from these planted seeds. It is also important to let people know that you act this way (as best you can) not in order to be saved but because you have been saved. Show it as a response born out of gratitude.
It should also be clear that Jesus’ ministry and our call to follow Him is an explicitly social and political ministry. He is about changing the world and seeing that His Kingdom breaks into this world. We can scarcely let out light shine before others without dealing in some way with the social and political interactions which make up our world. Politics is simply the institutional means by which we treat one another, and God has everything to say about that. Again, this does not mean you are out on a street corner shouting or running for office. It simply means being involved in whatever way is consistent with your gifts. It may mean just sharing what your faith means to you in terms of your political outlook. Even something as simple as this can have an impact.
Of course, we all need to grapple with what does this mean specifically. What shall be our stance in the public square regarding the issues of the day. The text this week offers some guidance. In verse 17, Jesus states that “‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil.” The law is of course the Ten Commandments and He fulfilled them by living them out perfectly. This is the standard we should aim at. What about this business of the “prophets”? Jesus is of course embracing the prophetic tradition of all the prophets who proclaimed the word of God and called out the powers of this world when they have gone astray. The Old testament reading this week: IS 58:1-9a [9b-12]makes it clear what is involved. God does not want us in sackcloth and ashes, offering faux sacrifices. This, God recognizes as just for show. He demands offerings of substance. Verses 6 & 7 lay it out: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”. We already know this in our heart of hearts.
Now, I have a pretty specific way of looking at how to fulfill these tasks. Theory and history have shown that a free society, whereby individual rights and dignities are protected produces dramatic upswings in human well-being. Those societies that fail to protect human rights (including the right to property) fail to provide an environment that is conducive to even feeding, clothing or sheltering people; much less providing all that we take for granted today. Of course, material prosperity does not equate to thankfulness to God but if we wish to free people from the yoke, then we had better start there.
It is also clear that reasonable people of good faith can and will disagree with the perspective I hold. I have discussed previously how we should interact with those who differ; with love and the realization that what unifies us is our desire to follow our Risen Lord, not the specific way we think we should do this.
In doing all of this we can acknowledge the public, political and social ministry of Jesus and His desire to see us in the world (not of the world) and striving as best we possibly can for the uplifting and freeing of all God’s children. With that as our plan and purpose we will go a long way to letting our light shine before others and glorifying our Father in Heaven.
Praise Be to God