Light - most think of this as the opposite of darkness. I'd like us to think of it as something which makes things visible. The absence of light means things which might otherwise be known are now hidden, appearing only as shadows or "darker" images in our path. It is light which makes things "appear" - things once only shadows, or for which we only had a slight awareness. When we stop to consider this a little, no wonder God says to his children, "You're here to be light"! We are here on this earth, right now in the moment we are living and breathing at this very instance, to be the one who begins to bring awareness of what appears only as shadows, or has been previously hidden from the view of those who are without light. If you have ever been to a candle-lighting event of some sort, it is usually a very dimly lit room and then one-by-one each candle is lit. How? One candle lights the other, and another, and so on until all candles are glowing. The room begins to illuminate with the glow of the multitude of candles. One candle had the potential to give full illumination to others who would receive its light!
Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 MSG)
One candle - that is all God ever asks us to be. One candle in a very dark world. One candle in a world where shadows and forms are understood as "present", but for which there is no real revelation of their magnitude until their is illumination. One candle bringing the hues of magnificent color into an otherwise very dull world. Jesus speaks these words to a country-side of onlookers - those curious about the light he seems to emanate from his life. His challenge to his disciples, and those in the crowd willing to have the light illuminate their lives, is to become light unto the world. As scripture says, "No one puts the light under a bushel", but rather it is put on display in a prominent place in order to allow the light to have its furthest reach. In the days he said these words, candle and oil-lamp light were the only forms of light within the walls of the home. Maybe the glow from a fire burning would be another form, but in general, lamp-light was pretty dim. In order to get the maximum "reach" to the light it gave off, it was placed on a stand or high atop a shelf.
Maximum reach - this is what Jesus desires of his kids. He wants us to bring out the "God-colors" in others. In other words, he wants our tiny light to be that which assists another in being "alt" themselves. We don't actually "do" the lighting of another's "candle", but we provide the means by which they have the access to the "flame" by which their own "wick" may be lit! Look again at the passage - Jesus is saying two things in context here - I have made you to be salt which brings "savor" to this world, and I have placed you in a prominent place to bring illumination to a dark world. Both are important concepts - one speaks of that which helps us to savor and enjoy the presence of God, the other is that which invites us to experience his fullness and revelation. One might think salt has but one or two uses - to preserve foods and to give them a little flavor.
Did you ever stop to consider salt having more than 14,000 uses? When Jesus compares us with salt, he is speaking of the versatility of a life lived with him - we bring more than just savor! We act as "cleaning agents" for lives darkened by sin - God using us to help "stained lives" become fresh and new again. Salt drives away bugs - those things which only act as "pests", bringing unwanted bother and spreading disease in our lives. Salt is also an excellent anti-infective, which is why so many dentists will have a patient gargle with a salt-water mix after gum surgery. A couple teaspoons of salt in a cup of water will allow you to know if an egg is still good - the fresh ones sink to the bottom, the bad ones float on the top! In comparing us to salt, Jesus is only point out the versatility of allowing him to use us in the many ways we might be influential in this world.
In comparing us to light, he is pointing out the "reach" we might have if we allow him to put our light on display - something for which light was intended in the first place. We become agents of illumination - but also provide the very means by which another might catch fire themselves. Color is only possible to see when there is illumination - apart from light, color is nothing more than shades of grey and black! Don't believe me? Go in a dark room, close the door and allow your eyes to adjust a few moments. Now, look around - what you see is shades of dullness! Your only way to see color is to have light - we are made to be "color-illuminators" - to bring about the revealing of the intensity and wonder of God's magnificence to a world who can only see shades of grey and black!
The request to each of us is to be "generous with our lives" - to be open to being used as God intended for us to be used - as salt and light. We could possess all this light for our own enjoyment, but one candle only burns so bright! A roomful of burning candles brings an intensity of illumination which far outshines the light of one candle! God expects us to pass on the light, so this world become illuminated with his magnificence! Just sayin!
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