Where there is light, there can be no darkness. Light challenges the darkness and banishes it. When you switch on the light, the darkness disappears. What is true literally is also true metaphorically.
Light, in Biblical language, is synonymous with knowledge, morality and life, whereas darkness is synonymous with ignorance, immorality and death. The Apostle John in his gospel traces the parallel between the nature light and spirituality, as follows;
“In him was life and the light was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:4&5)
The ‘light shining in the darkness’ was to be the word and character of Jesus declared in a world of ignorance and evil. Jesus, in his preaching, called men and women to listen and to absorb his teaching so that they in turn might become ‘lights in a dark place.’
“You are the light of the world; a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand and it gives light to all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
Here is a very clear directive from Jesus to believers all who come to a knowledge of the teaching of Christ must become like lights in the darkness of their world. What does this mean?
The Apostle Paul helps us;
“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the sold.” (Philippians 2:14&15)
We therefore, declare our belief by the kind of character that we demonstrate at work, at home, at play – in fact all the time. The first things that we have to try to achieve, is to develop ‘right attitudes’ – it is not enough to believe the right doctrines without having a noble and honourable attitude towards others. We must love the sinner but hate the sin, care for the person but despise the evil. We should be kind and compassionate, one to whom others come in a time of trouble.
“As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)
Discipleship is a life which aims to do good whilst abstaining from evil.
Do not love the world or the things in the world … the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.” (1 John 2:14&16)
The desires described may not only be found in the world about us but may also be inside our own minds.
It is easy to despise others when all the time we are enjoying their sins by proxy by television, newspapers and other forms of entertainment. It is easy to live as if Jesus had said;
‘Love not your neighbour’
‘Love the world’
instead of the other way round.
If we are indeed ‘lights in a dark place’ we shall do that which is right and good so that no-one will be able to criticise us except it be for the worship of our God!
Then we shall indeed be ‘lights in a dark place’, giving glory to God.
The second of our parables of influence is the one regarding salt which has a similar message to that of light but with significant differences;
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by mean.” (Matthew 5:13)
Salt is a very ancient commodity – salt preserves and gives flavour to food. It was a vital ingredient in food before the days of refrigeration. It was important as a preservative otherwise it would have become tainted and perished. Salt, therefore, became a very valuable item in past civilisations. However, in this quotation, Jesus is referring in particular, to its ability to give flavour to that which is eaten and he likens people to that quality. He implies that those who demonstrate meekness, mercy, purity of heart, desire righteousness and have the wholesomeness that God requires, will impart a richness to the company they keep. These qualities can easily be lost just as in their counterpart – salt; it is then useless and worthless.
To follow Jesus is to have the ‘tang of salt’, but the savour must be retained – the distinctiveness of ‘quality-discipleship’ has to be maintained even when times get difficult. A disciple’s faith must be retained in the face of opposition, ridicule, contempt and even apathy! In this context, the Apostle Paul has some very useful comments;
“Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; … Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Colossians 4:2,5&6)
A corrupt or putrid word is unfit for the conversation of Disciples of Christ. It is not good; it encourages decay as opposed to preservation. By contrast, words which are good and wholesome are like salt – purifying and preserving by their good influence.
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