“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5.14-16).
“Who said your light was little?” Ted Dekker
As we seek to follow Jesus in fullness, there may be no greater quest than to fully understand who we are in Him; to define our unique identity by His Word of declaration. I would suggest that from this proper understanding comes the freedom and power to live out the high calling to which God-Jesus Himself has called us (1 Thessalonians 5.23-24; 2 Thessalonians 2.16-17).
Our identity first comes from a relational understanding of who Jesus is – a task intended to start in this life and launch into eternity. It says much about the transforming power of the Christ message that Jesus describes himself as the light of the world (John 8.12; 9.5) and now here in Matthew declares that you and I are that light as well. He bestows upon us his nature because that is the outcome of His relational union with us. His mission has become our mission; His nature, our nature; His splendor – ours!
Notice the absolute Word of declaration that Jesus gives in the opening words of these verses – “You are the light of the world”. In seven English words, he tells us who we are without making conditions to it. He’s teaching a large crowd of people who are following after Him; people at varying levels of discipleship. He doesn’t single anyone out based on a higher degree of holiness and say, “Look at this woman! She is the light of the world because of her great deeds.” No, he is declaring to the whole crowd that they are the “light” prior to any acts of righteousness done on their part. He doesn’t say, “Follow me for 20 years and prove yourself…. Clean up your act and then you might have a hint of a shine…. Go to the right church…. Have your doctrinal beliefs fine-tuned – and then you will be the light”. No, He pronounces us as the light of the world separate from any accomplishment of our own. The next sentence takes all this a step further. The nature of a city built on a hill is that it is easily seen. Jesus speaks in the absurd when considering what it would take to hide such a city; to camouflage its place – it’s identity.
So it is with the follower of Christ. Not only is our identity not based on our works, it is ridiculous to think that that identity is hidden when we or others try to camouflage it by sin, condemnation and failure. Jesus’ Word of Declaration is so unequivocal that even the scars of this world cannot dim us or change who we are. What is more, collectively WE are the light of the world. One light is bright, two is better, three better still, a body of Christ followers – wow! It is the identity and purpose of the entire family of Christ to illuminate the whole world. May we reject with the authority of the Word any other false identification other than the one announced by Jesus – you (we) ARE the light of the world.
This understanding of identity does not lead us away from acts of righteousness but is the actual thrust toward them. All human beings live out of who they believe they are. Therefore, if I understand and believe that God has already defined and elevated my standing through Christ (“You are the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a city set on a hill”, etc.), works of love, kindness and radiance are mine, simply needing to be released.
Now what does this have to with marriage? Jesus said, “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” There are many assumptions we have to make when we read Scripture as to what certain characters fully had in mind when they said the things they said. So, I’m not sure, but doesn’t it make sense that Jesus would be thinking of our families when he uses the metaphor of physical light in the house. In fact, shouldn’t our identity as light bearers be first practiced within the relationships of our households? And don’t you see how understanding our identity and purpose given to us by Christ would radically affect how we esteem our wives/husbands? How we invest in our children?
Finally, it is our calling as believers in Jesus to let our light and our deeds shine in such a way that Abba is glorified. It has nothing to do with people looking at us and saying, “Oh, what a good husband he is! What a good wife! Or parent! If there is something supernatural happening in our house it is only because of the supernatural splendor of God who abides there with us. May His name be honored! Amen.
“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4.6)