Jesus’ longest sermon—or collection of teachings—is the Sermon on the Mount. His three-chapter survey of life in God’s kingdom begins with a statement of values that has come to be known as the Beatitudes.
Read Matthew 5:2-16 (see also Luke 6:20). What are the common features of these nine values or kinds of people described by Jesus as “blessed”?
Along with the deep spiritual application of these words, we must not miss the practical reading of them, as well. Jesus talked about recognizing the poverty in ourselves and in our world. He also talked about righteousness (translated as “justice” in some Bible versions), humility, mercy, peacemaking, and purity of heart. We should take note of the practical difference that these qualities will make in our lives and in our world when they are lived out. Such a practical reading is emphasized in Jesus’ following statements in which He urged His disciples to be salt and light in the world (Matt. 5:13-16).
When used appropriately, salt and light are to make a difference in the contexts in which they are added. Salt brings out flavors, as well as preserves the foods it is added to; it is symbolic of the good that we should be for those around us. Similarly, light pushes back the darkness, revealing obstacles and hazards, making a house or city safer and providing a point to navigate by, even when some distance away. Like a light on a dark night, Jesus said, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16, NIV).
Both these salt and light symbols point us to the responsibility of disciples to influence and improve the lives of those around them. We are salt and light when we mourn appropriately, have purity of heart, practice humility, show mercy, make peace, and endure oppression. So, Jesus begins this sermon with the call to embody these sometimes “undervalued values” of His kingdom.
|In what ways does your church community work as salt and light in your community? How is your community a better place because your church is at work there? On the other hand, if you were to disband, what difference would it make in your community?|