Jesus starts the sermon on the mount with some lessons on being instead of lessons on doing. Blessed are the…You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.
The apostle Paul picked up this same approach in several of his letters, reminding people of who they are before telling them what they are to do. We see this in Ephesians where Paul spends three chapters telling them who they are in Christ before he tells them what they are then to do in the final three chapters. We see this in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 where Paul tells them who they are and then tells them to just be that.
Do you know where else we hear that? Before Paul and even before Jesus, this is what God did on Sinai when He gave the 10 commandments but it wasn’t about who the people are, it was about who God is…it was not a “You are…” rather it was an “I am…” Here is it – “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (Exodus 20:1). Just like Jesus these words were given on a mountain and just like Jesus what followed involved instructions on murder and stealing and adultery.
It is important that we know who we are. The only way to know who we are is to know who God is. Period.
Everything else flows out of that. What we do matters but what we do ultimately flows out of who God has made us to be. Jesus knows that. Paul knows that. God knows that. We should come to grips with that as well. I think we have a bit of an identity crisis in Christianity today. For years we preached more about what to do and not to do than about who we are and it shows. In times like these it is important to come to an understanding of who we are based on scripture and scripture has no shortage of information on that if we are willing to give it a look.
In Matthew 5:13 Jesus tells us something very important about our identity as the people of God,
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” – 5:13
Salt is gathered and stored because it will be needed to serve its intended purpose. The rest of the sermon on the mount will describe how they, as salt, can be used as God intends for them to be used in the world. But before they can know how they are to be used they must understand they are salt and they are light. They do not exist to be an end unto themselves. They (and us with them) exist to be used for God’s eternal purposes. To allow ourselves to be used for purposes other than God’s potentially opens us up to be compromised, diluted, polluted and un-useful to God in this world…potentially resulting in judgment.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” – 5:14-16
Again, this is a state of being. This is who you are and out of who you are comes what you do. A light is made to illuminate what is around it. That is in its nature. It cannot do anything less than that. Here is the real shocker…who is he talking about here? Is he talking about some elite group of people who have a strategy to overthrow Rome? He is talking about the same group of people he was talking about in 5:3-11: the persecuted, the mourners, the meek, and all the rest. These are the ones who shine like stars in the sky, as Paul would put it in Philippians 2:14-16, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”
So shine away meek one. Shine away those who are poor in spirit. Let your flame blaze bright in the house of mourning. That is what God’s people do because that is who God has made us to be. We pray the world will take notice and that God will receive great glory!