By Alex Florez
Section 2: People of the Light
I teach Matthew 5 to my fifth graders every year, and I love parking in the Beatitudes so the kids can see how awesome it is to recognize that God wants precious little from us in order to be deemed those who are “blessed.” We are to embody poverty of spirit, humility, purity of heart, peace, and mercy. When we live that way, we begin to reflect the glory of God’s goodness. With these virtues in mind, Jesus commands us to go forth and “let your light shine before others” in a way that cannot be hidden or denied (Matthew 5:16). It’s a simple admonishment yet powerful in its implications for Christian living.
But upon reading Isaiah 49 in light of what Jesus commissions us to do in Matthew 5, I was awakened to something I hadn’t recognized before. God’s Word suggests to me that the way I’m shining may not be enough.
Am I poor in spirit only when I privately confess to God what a wreck am I? Am I only humble when things don’t go my way and I have no choice but to take one on the chin? Do I only mourn when tragedy strikes close to home because the pain is undeniably personal? When I hunger for righteousness, is that really just a nice way of saying, “Lord, please make ‘those people’ who are so clearly wrong on all the issues think more like me?” Am I merciful only among like-minded people who implicitly agree on everything already? Do I only behave as a peacemaker when doing so helps me avoid conflict with the people I have to see and deal with every day?
I don’t believe God is sending us on a divine guilt trip. But it’s not enough to keep the transforming power of Jesus as some sort of tribal secret. If we look around and the only people whose lives we touch are family, close friends, and members of our church, we’re missing out on the splendid opportunity to reflect the light of God’s salvation to the world outside of our little circles. We have to resist getting too comfortable; we have to stretch beyond the safe, familiar landscape of what we already know and love.
Of course, we must still invest time and energy encouraging those closest to us; we must continue pointing the people in our community to the cross. But God has called us to think broadly with the light shining within us. In eschewing the opportunity to take the brilliance of Jesus to “the nations,” we not only fall short of our kingdom-oriented marching orders, but we also miss out on the opportunity to experience the luminous joy of participating in the proclamation of the good news.