Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” In this sermon, we learn how being the light is much more than simply doing good deeds. It entails God’s call upon God’s people to be a distinct people who walk in covenant with him and shine forth an alternative pattern of living for all to see.
As Greg stated last week, being salt and light is the thematic centerpiece of the Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon by Tara Beth Leach, we are honing in on what Jesus meant by being the light of the world. While the verse states that good deeds are involved, being God’s light is not merely a bunch of Christians who decide to do some good acts from time to time and then go about the rest of their lives in a normal fashion. Being a light to the world defines who the people of God are at the core of their being, and to understand this, Tara ties being a light to God’s covenants.
Through a brief survey of the Old Testament covenants, we learn that God called a group of people, called the Israelites, to live as a set-apart and distinct people in the midst of the world because they had a set-apart and distinct relationship with God. As such, their way of life as a people was meant to stand out as a light so that the world might see what it means to walk with God. This is far more than volunteering from time to time for a good cause, although being a light to the world will involve volunteering. It is far more than being nice to the wait staff at a restaurant or obeying the laws of the land, even though both are included in being God’s light. It is a way of being, a way of life, that shapes everything that we do and say.
This is specifically seen in the covenant with Abraham, beginning in Genesis 12. In response to the sin that had ruled the earth found in the stories of the first eleven chapters of this book, God called out Abraham, to leave his father and mother and all that he knew that gave him security in this world, and to follow God to a new land. Then God told Abraham that he, his family and his descendants would be blessed, living in relationship with God and with others, and to be a father of a great nation that would be Israel. This was a challenging thing for Abraham to believe because he did not have a child that would form this great nation. This led to all kinds doubts and dubious acts by Abraham. However, as we read in Genesis 15, God enacts a unilateral covenant with Abraham committing to fulfill the promise to give him heirs, so that his family might be a blessing to the world.
This covenant people would be a counter-cultural community that would serve as a light to show forth the character of God. These people were called to live in peace with God and with each other to shine in the midst of the darkness.
Jesus came as the light of the world (John 8:12) so that all, not just the nation of Israel, might participate in this covenant with Abraham. All have the opportunity to join in on God’s covenants. To be a distinct people who get in on the promises made to Abraham and to shine forth a distinctive way of God’s peace and harmony in the midst of chaos and destruction. The Spirit is at work in us to grow us up to live into this identity, as it is more than something that we do. It is who we are. Let us embrace it, because this is the way that God shines forth in the world.
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