I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reading of late. There’s no doubt that we live in a dark world. My thoughts have been centered around the darkness of the world and our role as believers in a dark world. Some of my reading has been about a woman who recently died. Her name was Gertrude Himmelfarb. I’d never heard of her or read anything written by her. The tributes to her 93 years were incredible and captured my attention. She was a brilliant woman and studied and wrote prolifically. From what I can gather, her passion was to call us back to morality for ourselves and for our culture.
Another article I read was about a movie that a Christian man made – not a documentary, but a story – about his sister who was trafficked for six years, about her very difficult recovery, and about the culture that made such horrors possible.
These two articles impacted me. I was left thinking, “What can I do? How can I morally affect the culture I live in? As I am often prone to do, I was ready to march out and start a moral crusade. I was ready to immerse into the writings of Gertrude Himmelfarb. BUT, I remembered a verse, “Let your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
As I opened my Bible to Matthew 5 for the context of that verse, I had to back up into Matthew 4. Here I saw Jesus coming out of His temptations by Satan and initiating His public ministry. Jesus started with a passage from Isaiah describing that culture and every other culture without Him as “a people sitting in darkness.” But He didn’t leave it there. He also quoted from Isaiah that those people in darkness have seen a great light – a light has dawned. And He then began to preach, calling people to repentance –
- Change your inner self… your old way of thinking;
- Regret past sins;
- Live your life in a way that proves repentance;
- Seek God’s purpose for your life.
The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.
The curious thing to me is that after Jesus started preaching and calling disciples to Himself, He started performing miracles and healing people. People started to follow Him. He sat them down and pronounced blessings on them.
- Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven;
- Blessed are those who mourn over their sins and repent for they shall be comforted;
- Blessed are the gentle – the kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled – for they will inherit the earth;
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be satisfied;
- Blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy;
- Blessed are the pure in heart- those with integrity, moral courage and good character – for they will see God;
- Blessed are the makers and maintainers of peace for they will express His character and be called sons of God;
- Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing that which is morally right, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven;
- Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil things against you because of Me. Be glad and exceedingly joyful, for your reward in heaven is great; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets before you.
What I believe that Jesus is doing here is laying out a description of the citizens of this new kingdom that was at hand. I even noted in one commentary that this is a covenant between Himself and the citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Following the blessings Jesus then told the people that they were two things:
- They were salt, but if salt loses its purpose it is no longer good for anything.
- They were the light of the world. He told them that a city set on a hill cannot be hidden, nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. and now, here it is, “Let your light shine before me in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.“
Jesus goes on from here to describe the behavior of those who are citizens of heaven. You can find all that He had to say at the launch of His ministry in Matthew 5-7. What Jesus has just done is to paint a picture of the kingdom that He will soon will be ushering in at the end of His earthly life.
So my conclusion as a follower of Jesus Christ is that I am intended to be salt and shine in a dark world with as much gusto as Jesus gives me as an inhabitant of His kingdom.
How do you respond to the dark culture around us?