Through this series, we have spent the past couple of months thinking about how to socially analyze where we are as a culture, what’s going wrong, and where we can improve, especially in the realm of social media. We have dedicated time to other posts talking about some of the specific places we can re-evaluate how to use our time and energies in a more Christ-like manner. If you haven’t done so yet, I encourage you to first check out some of the things written in this series before continuing here, to give you a better framework for what’s being crescendoed here in finishing. If this final post is anything, it is a way for us to tie up the loose ends and call us into action.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14)
This is an excerpt from Jesus’s famous sermon, the coined “Sermon on the Mount.” It’s very easy to look at this and completely gloss over what’s being said. Because you’ve probably heard it a million times. And you’ve heard the contemporary worship songs or seen the book titles and coffee cups with this language. But as long as you keep reading this post, we’re not going to do that. We’re going to move painfully slow through these verses, and when we do, we’ll be shocked at what Jesus is teaching us in sixteen simple words.
Who is Jesus talking about here? Blood-bought, mercy-covered sinners. The chosen race that spat in His face while He shows grace. If it doesn’t blow your mind that you and I are “partakers of grace” (Phil. 1:7) and literally get to dine at the Lord’s table one day, please stop reading this and go read Romans 3. Filthy rags. None righteous. That’s me. That’s you.
We know how the rest of this sentence reads. We “are the light of the world.” But spending some time on the word “are” really helps us recognize the how truly remarkable it is that we indeed are the light. “Are” means that is our very being, and it is only because we have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of Christ (1 Cor. 6:11). The word “are” is astounding here. Being made alive with Christ (Eph. 2:5) is cosmos-shaking.
“The” is probably…the…most used word in…the…English language. But what does “the” signify in this context? Exclusivity. Notice the verse does not say “You are a light of the world.” “A” would signify that there are multiple lights. But using the word “the” means that there is one light. Everyone likes to emphasize the usage of “I AM” statements by Jesus throughout the New Testament, but it’s the word “the” that follows each instance of those words that is key. Some call it “narrow.” Others call it “exclusive.” Regardless, we’ll all one day call it “supreme.”
light of the world.
In order for light to illuminate a space, the space must be darker than the light. I don’t think anyone wonders whether or not we are living in a broken, dark world. Believers and unbelievers alike have been exposed and surrounded by constant episodes of darkness—crime, tragedy, disease, pain, loss, suffering, hate. The world is dark and is only growing more dim. Yet there is a light. Us. You, once lost, now reconciled, are, in your very being,the one light of the world. The purpose of a porch light is to light the doorway for guests coming or going, so that they don’t trip or get left in the dark. Our purpose for being a light in the world is the same. As Spurgeon wrote, “Christ has lighted us that we may enlighten the world.”
It’s amazing enough that the Father loved one man enough to give up His Son to die for him. It’s unfathomably awesome that He made this sacrifice for an entire body and nation of believers. He has built a Church that extends across borders, languages, classes, races, ages, and denominations. We get to glory in the Father while enjoying a life of community. What a grace.
Not merely occupying a space—the city is fixed. It is established. It’s not going anywhere. When Jesus told Peter “upon this rock I will build my Church,” He meant a stone that no man could roll away, the kind of stone only Christ could move. Huge.
on a hill.
Every army looks for higher ground in wartime. Snipers don’t get in the bunkers, they get on rooftops. If you’re going to be effective in battle, you can survive and desprately fight from the valley, or strategize and work efficiently from the mountain. We don’t live in a world plagued by dualism. Not even the demons are wondering if they have a shot at defeating God Almighty one day. They know how it ends.
“Cannot” isn’t the same as “should not.” “Cannot” means it is rationally impossible. When Jesus died and rose again three days later, “cannot” became a concrete word in His vocabulary for our good to His glory.
I come to the last two words of this verse. “Be hidden.” None of our human words can do justice how remarkable and magnificent Jesus’ previous fourteen words are for us and our world. What Jesus is telling His disciples is simple. “Because of my sacrifice, through you, I am going to bring light to this dark world. I’m establishing my rule with supremacy, and everyone ought to take notice.”
God uses humans and their choices to establish His decrees. We don’t control the fate of the world. God is sovereign. But we aren’t robots without decision-making abilities, either. God gave us choice. And today, and tomorrow, we have a choice to make.
Will we be a hidden city?
The world has become connected in such a remarkable and rapid way. “Facebook” wasn’t even a thing twelve years ago. The iPhone was just over a year old when Barack Obama was elected President. Not to mention, Instagram, Vine…even Medium! I say all of this to say, the world is only growing closer, faster.
In fact, it’s growing in such a way to the point that we are having lesser and lesser excuse for keeping the light from the world. Yes, the light “cannot” be fully hidden for all time. It is impossible. But we will stand accountable if, in spite of all the resources and ease of becoming a light to the darkness, we hid our lamp under a bushel.
And really, why wouldn’t we be a light? We have the greatest gift of good news that has transformed the very “are” of our lives. We have “the” exclusive gift of imputed righteousness. We have the support of an entire “city” on our side, not to mention, the “light” Himself! Why wouldn’t we share it with the ones we love? Why wouldn’t we want to invade the dark spaces with the gospel light? Why wouldn’t we want to show those searching the light they’re looking in the wrong places for? Sharing the light of Christ with the world isn’t a chore; it’s love.
It is socially unacceptable to live another day hiding our light under the bushel. Let it shine, dear brothers and sisters. This world is hurting. We see it on social media every day. Grief porn daily shatters our news feed. Cross words fly to and fro. Men and women created in the image of God are wasting away in virtual vegging. God’s plan for authentic, complementary relationships in dating and marriage is being compromised by artificial romance. We’ve abandoned our intended design as image-bearers of God for a frivolous game of social charades.
If we aren’t careful, we will squander the rich opportunity we have to use our social platforms for Christ’s Kingdom, and instead be remembered by generations to come as “The Hidden City.” Is that the kind of legacy we should strive to leave for our world as they only grow more connected even faster than we could imagine? Are we exhibiting a pattern of shining Christ’s light that they, in dark times to come, can look back on and be encouraged by our flame? Recognize what you have been called to be, who Christ has made you, and let that be the lantern for your daily life, online and offline to the world, to the glory and praise of His name.
light of the world.
on a hill.
What kind of city will we choose to be?