“Jesus relentlessly opens the shutters and says, ‘Look again . . . with my heart and mind.’”*
“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all those who are in the house.”**
How are we to make the world a better place? What if you bought in on the idea that our mission in this world is to be a “light”? Where do we start? What are we to do?
Certainly there are many pockets of darkness that need illumination and many people feel they can effect change but what does the Bible say about this subject?***
First of all, the Old Testament tells us the story of the nation of Israel that felt “their God” was the only God. To live apart from other nations was the only way to live. They felt God was only interested in Israel and no one else, or so they believed.
This view conflicted with God’s vision shared with Abram, to create a people who will be blessed and by whom the nations are to be blessed as well. I guess it is only human to focus on the first part of the previous statement because that means Israel is special, but was that God’s intent when the second part of the statement is “the nations are to be blessed as well”?
Labberton says “the particularity of God’s love for Israel is for the sake of the universality of God’s love for the world. . . .God does not shrink to fit Israel’s vision. Israel is called to see the world God’s way.”
In the Old Testament, Israel falls into the “nationalistic myopia” that a king was what they needed. If they could just find a person who could lead them, they could avoid all the distractions of their less-focused theocracy. What happened? God condescended to provide for them a king and they had periods of good fortune and bad fortune based on the vision of the kings.
Then other cultures tried to force their ways on the nation of Israel. Babylon had a set of deities and there was a conflict between the conquering power’s deities and Yahweh. The important question becomes would Israel see the world as Babylon sees the world or would they maintain the all-important focus on Yahweh?
This question was answered as Daniel provided answers to Nebuchadnezzar. “Yahweh alone is the One who could raise up kings and depose them.” When Daniel told this news of the end of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, he was looking beyond the power of Babylon and its tyrant king.
Then another option arose: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish, but may have eternal life.” Jesus is the fulfillment of the identity of Israel, the blessing that is to be passed on to all nations, to Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria and to the ends of the earth. [Acts 1:8].
Jesus offended many people in his short life here on earth. He “ate, healed, named, loved, celebrated, listened, served and died for all the wrong people. The woman at the well knew it. So did Nicodemus. So did Joseph of Arimathea, So did the woman who touched the hem of His garment. So did Matthew. So did the man born blind and his parents. Jesus acted. And that was His problem” [Labberton, 171].
He could have hidden His light. When He lived His spiritual life, He could have had the attitude that God was only for Him and His chosen people. He could have assumed the trappings of “king.” Many in His nation wanted a king to come and overthrow Roman rule. He could have chosen to just blend into the culture, not “rock the boat” so to speak. After all (to use a common phrase) it is much easier to swim with the stream than to swim against it.
He did not do any of the above.
He decided to spend His time noting those who had been ignored by life. The age of people did not bother Him. The lifestyle of people did not bother Him. The circumstances of people did not bother Him. The spiritual conditions of people did not bother Him.
He just shined His light. . . . for all those who are in the house. . .
And He goes further . . .He opens the shutter of the house and says “Look again . . .with My heart and mind.
That’s His answer about how we are supposed to make the world a better place…
If we accept His mission in our life, that’s where we start.
*Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor
**Matthew 5: 14-16
***Apologies to student of The Word…this is a poor summary…