God’s followers are the salt of the earth, and as such act as salt in our ungodly world. Through us two things happen. The culture around us tastes His presence through our words and actions, and by our prayers and presence we preserve our ungodly world from imminent judgment. But that work only happens when we act like Christ. Christians who don’t speak of Him, don’t act like Him and don’t pray for the unsaved don’t have the same effect. They are like salt still in the saltshaker. Jesus doesn’t want that for us. To express that point, He continues, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Salt is hidden in the earth and the sea, and must be bought to the table through significant effort. But light needs no mining or processing. By nature it cannot help but flood the landscape and illume all. Indeed (apart from man-made lasers), light is always diffuse. It spreads out in every direction, and even a ‘beam’ of light created by the sun shining through clouds is seen far outside that which is directly below. Light is meant to provide sight, and it is meant to provide sight to all who see.
A city on a hill has similar characteristics. It is built on a hill so that its citizens can see far beyond its walls, and so that those who look for it can find it easily. It can even be used as a landmark for travelers who pass by. These things are not only not hidden, they are impossible to hide. That is Jesus’ point, that trying to hide it would be completely counter productive, “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 men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
The Christ-life is not a life meant to be hidden. It is a life meant to be lived in the open. A life meant to be seen by all -so that the light of God living in each of us by the Spirit of God – might be clearly visible to everyone. Not only those we intentionally interact with, and not only those we encounter by circumstance, and not only by all who so much as glance in our general direction, but by everyone in vicinity of our lives. When a Christian is present in a society, everyone should know that the kingdom of heaven is nearby and that the gospel is accessible.
In ancient societies, everyone knew everyone else. Partly that was on account of the nature of small towns, a culture that valued and expected hospitality and on account of the lack of any kind of mass media. In our present day the great majority live anonymous in cities. Most live isolated lives with almost all of their attention consumed by obligations and mass media. Those living ‘within sight’ are therefore no longer those nearby by distance, but those nearby by influence.
That doesn’t change who we are, it just changes who ‘sees’ us. In many cases, on account to media, that group includes those living in other countries, those living outside our timezone and even our timelines. After all, almost all of those in Christ’s day are forgotten on account of the lack of record. But the content we create today is almost entirely digital. That means that much of what we say and produce will speak for our character and Christ’s glory for years after our demise.
Never does our light shine as brightly to the glory of God as against the backdrop of our darkest hour of suffering.John R. Bisagno
Your light shines. Who does your light shine upon?