In our modern world, we are accustomed to the availability of light. A simple flip of a light switch can overcome any amount of darkness and will instantly bring light into our lives.
Of course, it hasn’t always been this way. For the longest time, darkness was an overwhelming part of life. Once the sun went down darkness would consume our lives. As a result, families, businesses, and others would use any means they could to provide a bit of light into a dark world. We have used fire pits, candlelight, and kerosene lamps with the attempt of providing some amount light. None of these options, unfortunately, provided any amount of long-lasting light.
By the late 1800s, several inventors sought to find a way out of darkness. They wanted to find a permanent solution that would offer a permanent light source. Projects would come and fail until Thomas Edison arrived in the late 1870s with his attempt at creating a light bulb.
Edison’s attempt at the light bulb project would be the one that would stand the test of time. In 1879, Edison successfully tested a carbon filament bulb that glowed for 13 hours when used. The test inaugurated a new era and led to a revolutionary change in the world. Darkness would no longer be an obstacle. A simple flip of the switch would provide a light in every room. Light now drowns out the darkness.
Much in the same way, as followers of Christ, we are called to be like Edison’s light bulb. We are called to drown out the darkness. To paraphrase what Jesus says in Matthew 5:13-20, we are to be like a light bulb and shine a light in the places of darkness that exist in our world. We are to be people of light who share our light with others. Jesus calls us to be this source of brightness in the darkness by the way we live and inspire others.
Unlike the darkness Edison sought to overcome, our places of darkness are not simply a matter of visibility challenges. The places of darkness that we are called to offer a beacon of light into are the places of spiritual darkness that can overwhelm every person. They are the places of hurt. They are the places of family strife. They are the places of rejection. They are the places of personal frustration and sadness. At the same time, we recognize these places of darkness are not just personal in nature. There are also places of darkness that affects our community and world. These are the places of hunger. These are the places of long-term unemployment. These are the places of injustice. These are the places of addictions, homelessness, and we could go on.
Places of darkness can be found all around us and even amongst us today. As followers of Christ, we are called to be a light that shines into these places. This is the way of life that Jesus calls us to take on in our passage today. Our reading flows out of Jesus’ discussion of The Beatitudes and the marks that he desires his followers to have. Jesus follows those words with a calling for his followers. We who seek to follow Jesus are called to find places to be a witness of light in the places of darkness by showing people Jesus through our words, actions, and deeds.
This is what Jesus says in the first half of our passage. He calls us to be the light of the world, a people who are like a city on a hill, shinning out for all to see. We are called to different way of living that offers hope in the midst of darkness. Followers of Christ are called to share a light by expressing ourselves in ways that help others to see Jesus at work in their lives.
A light offers something different in the midst of darkness. A brightness that shines a path forward to a new way of living. We do this by being a presence of hope and love in our families, our communities, and throughout the world. This isn’t something we can do when we feel that it is mostly needed. Jesus calls us to be a presence of hope in all days, in all seasons, and in all times, as a response to our love of the Lord. Every day is an opportunity to be the light in the world.
In doing so, we are called to reflect the same light that Jesus offers the world. Jesus is the true Light that breaks through the places of darkness and allows us to see the Father’s presence in our lives. Jesus came as the deeper expression of hope, peace, joy, and love, because he is the provider and the true witness of these holy characteristics. He did this by being a living presence in the lives of others. Jesus heard their stories, heard their brokenness, and listened to their stories. He immersed himself into the lives of others, and witnessed to them the Father’s love, through both words and actions. Jesus is a light of presence who offers true hope through acts of love and healing that changed the world and is still changing the world today.
The light we share is like the light of Christ. We are to be reflections of Jesus’ light in our interactions with the world. To be this light, we are called to also immerse ourselves into the lives of others in the same way Jesus immersed himself into our lives. Being a light in the midst of darkness calls us to hear their stories of brokenness, and to be a witness of a hope in times of darkness. People who are called to be light are those who connect themselves with people who are broken, love on them, and show them the Jesus that lives in us and is with us through the pain, the hurt, and the frustrations of life.
That is the light we are called to reflect. What we share with the world is what Jesus has done in us. We cannot share with others nothing more than what Jesus has already done in us. The reflection of light that we share with others is the work of sanctification – of deeper transformation – that God does in us are we continue to grow in our love of and relationship with the Lord. This is the light that lives in us. It is the light of Christ that we received in our hearts when we accepted the free gift of God’s grace and love.
Our light, as a witness of God’s work in us, is our witness to the world of the hope and presence of Christ that is at work in the places of darkness that is all around us. This light helps us to share hope, peace, joy, and love, through our presence of words and actions, in our communities and across the world. It is a light that continually shines brighter as we grow in our knowledge of God’s word and love.
Followers of God are people who share the light of Christ that is made brighter by how God’s word shapes and forms us. Jesus calls us to be people who not only share light, but do so in recognition that we offer Christ as the truth and hope who speaks into the darkness.
These are the words that come out in the final half of our passage. Jesus tells his listeners that he came not to abolish the Law, but to show its deeper application and meaning. The Law was a central part of faith for the people of that time and following the Law was the key to life and faith. Many might have believed that Jesus came to do away with the Law, but Jesus says this is not the case. Instead, he shows each of us what it means to truly be people who hear God’s word and the meaning behind God’s desires.
Jesus did not come to be the light in places of darkness. He also came to show us what it means to be God’s followers, who take on the Lord’s desires and make them be the guiding principles of our lives that allows us to be a light in the places of darkness. This calls us to hear God’s word. There are two parts to this. First, we have to hear God’s word in our mind. This is the head knowledge of faith. We need to know what Jesus said and have a working knowledge of Scripture. It is important for us to know the stories of faith, and to be able to recall them in an intellectual way. This is formed through daily Scripture reading, participation in Sunday School and small groups, as well as communal Bible studies. These are important means of discipleship that help us to grow in faith and strengthen our light into the world.
However, a head knowledge of Christ and faith can only take us so far. We also need a heart knowledge. This means to have the words of God not just written on our minds, but also written in our hearts. By this, the words of Christ and the Lord’s desire affects who we are and transforms every aspect of who we are and seek to be. It means, as well, to grow deeper in love with the Lord by hearing the stories of faith and to have the heart knowledge to know that Christ speaks to us and loves us.
This is what it means to truly hear God’s word. To not just listen to it, but to make it be what defines every part of our lives. This kind of hearing of God’s world helps us to be a light in places of darkness by it showing us the way to being people of hope. When we hear God’s word, both in our head and heart, it shows us the way to be like Christ in our witness to others and how to be a reflection of love in the world.
Hearing God’s word shows us actionable ways of how we can immerse ourselves into places of darkness and be a witness of light. There are so many ways that hearing God’s word might inspire us to being people of light in places of darkness. It may call us to being someone who hears the hurt that someone is experiencing and offering an encouraging presence in their difficult moment. Being a light may call us to offer places of hope for people who struggling through some form of addiction, whether it be physical or financial. Being a people of light inspires us to be a people of grace in places of turmoil or despair. Being a people light calls us to be used in love so that the love of Christ may be shown to all people.
We are the witnesses of the true light. As followers of Christ, we are called to be a people who shine bright and share hope. There are so many places in our communities that we can do this today.
May we be known as people whose light shines bright in places of darkness. May our church and our witness to our community be a light, a beacon of hope, for those who hurt.