What Kind of Light is That?

Psalm 89:4–37, Matthew 5:13–16, Philippians 4:4–9 (read online ⧉)

Psalm 89 talks about people who walk in the light of the face of God. This is somewhat associated with both Moses having to wear a veil (Exodus 34:29–35 ⧉) and the Levitical blessing (Numbers 6:22–27 ⧉). The light of the face of God is transformative for those who seek to honor, value and glorify God. The psalm talks about the particular people rejoicing in God’s name and being “lifted up” due to God’s righteousness (not their own). God also becomes their strength and protection.

The Christian thinking that goes along with light, especially when we read the passage in Matthew, is often sloppy. Perhaps it comes from simple, joyous, and fun songs such as, “This Little Light of Mine.” It is partially the individualistic salvation story that we are familiar and comfortable with as Westerners (especially, Americans). It is also this generic term that is often said without really thinking about exactly what “light” means. The Scriptures use light in many ways, so if we are going to be using such a generic “light”, we’d better define it. Yet, we often leave it to, “oh, you know what I mean.” And that, dear Framily, is exactly the problem. In the Western world, religious familiarity (of the useful kind, not antagonism) is fading. We can’t say, “oh, you know what I mean,” anymore, because most people don’t know what you mean!

Jesus’ City on a Hill parable is based on a historical white stone city on a hill. It shined brightly when it reflected the sun. It couldn’t be hidden. Something so white and on a hill could only hide at night when the moon was covered (clouds, cycle, or orbit). If it has been a long time since you’ve been (or if you have never been) away from city lights, the light of the moon shines on many things. A white city on a hill would shine even in the night, as long as the moon itself was shining. Jesus then commands us to “shine our light” before all humanity! The light we are to shine is not “the light of Jesus”. It is the light of lives transformed by Jesus.

How does someone show that their life was transformed by Jesus? The passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians provides some ideas. Some of them might even be counter-Christian-cultural! Rejoice in God always, even when society appears to be going against you. Be gracious to others (just as God was gracious to you). Don’t worry about anything. When you bring requests to God, first be thankful. Oh, and God will give you peace that makes no sense. Then think about and dwell upon good things: truth, honor, just, pure, lovely, commendable. Having a life with these characteristics would definitely make you counter-cultural, often even in the church.

1) What would be your definition of “being the light,” if you had to explain it to an unbeliever who has never heard from Jesus? Now, think about what you said. Would somebody even listen to it?

2) What are some other habits/characteristics that you think “shine the light”? Are they your characteristics?

3) Paul’s list about what to dwell on is often missed by the church. Why do you think that is?

Action: Add a daily practice to find something positive to dwell on particularly in your family or church.

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