Our sermon this morning at 6:8 was from Jesus’ well-known teaching found in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount:
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
We began with a lesson in opposites by watching a clip of an interview of Ron Luce, president and cofounder of a very popular Christian ministry called Teen Mania. The interview was done by CNN and took place during a public rally in San Francisco. Ron was leading a group of Christian teens armed with megaphones and in-your-face prayers for God to take back the USA. Of course, there was a huge counter-rally – this is San Francisco. The video was actually pretty disturbing; mainly because Ron Luce simply didn’t see any problem at all with his methods and was “shocked” that so many people were “angrily” protesting his event.
As I listened to the sermon, I was reminded of something by George MacDonald in a sermon entitled “Opinion and Truth,” which was included in the book Your Life in Christ. MacDonald says that our opinions do not spread life, because they are not truth. All opinions contain truth, but they are never to be equated with truth. However, he maintains that we are called to spread the truth. He then poses the question to himself: “How spread it [truth], if we are not to talk about it?” He responds:
Friends, I never said, “Do not talk about the truth.” But I do insist upon a better and the only indispensable way of spreading truth – let your light shine. By that loftiest duty we are to spread the truth.
What I said before, and say again, is, “Do not talk about the lantern that holds the lamp, but make haste, uncover the light, and let it shine.” […]
It is not, Let your good works shine, but Let your light shine.
Let it be the genuine love of your hearts, taking form in true deeds, not the doing of good deeds to prove that your opinions are right. If you are thus true, your very talk about the truth will be a good work, a shining of the light that is in you.
I agree with MacDonald. We spend way too much time talking about our lampstands instead of shining our lights. Sometimes we do even worse. Sometimes we quit talking about our lampstands, pull them out of the ground, and start beating people with them. This is the image that came to mind when I reflected on that Ron Luce interview. Maybe that is a bit extreme… One thing is for sure: there was no light, no city on a hill, no good deeds that brought praise to our Father in heaven.
If there was a light shining that day in San Francisco, it was probably more like a spotlight. It was super bright, shined directly into the eyes of another, painful, blinding, disorienting, and just obnoxious. Spotlights can be used at a distance and if there was certainly a great amount of distance between Ron Luce and those to whom he and his teen army were “preaching the gospel.” Jesus did not teach us to be spotlights. He compared us to candles – possibly torches – but probably candles. How do I know? Jesus lived in the first century… duh? No spotlights back then ;). Compare a candle to a spotlight… candles must be held close, they are warm, inviting, and gentle. They are only a meager source of light, and they are vulnerable to being blown out.
Another fun fact about candles: they don’t last forever. Candles eventually burn down. In giving light, a candle gives itself. It gives itself until itself runs out… now that sounds like something Jesus would say. It may seem like the most “efficient” way of spreading the truth, of driving back the darkness, is by using a spotlight – or an army of spotlights if your name is Ron Luce. However, Jesus was pretty much never concerned about efficiency. Candles are not efficient either… but when you get a bunch of them together, and you decide to settle down in this world and live like Jesus, eventually… you get a city on a hill.