The follwing is an exposition of what we believe JESUS tells us in Matt 5:1-16 and hence defines how we should carry out our mission at Heart for Youth.
In the beatitudes, Jesus pronounces His disciples as blessed (a state independent on this circumstances, even many were outcasts) because they:
- Are given the kingdom of heaven – blessed to be under Christ rule, authority and protection, when they are repent and empty themselves (or at the end of their rope, MESSAGE) so that they have no choice but to trust in and depend entirely on God (5:3)
- Will be comforted by God Himself and hence given assurance and hope for a perfect future in the age to come (see 3), when they mourn for sin (their own and that of the world and look forward to redemption rather than are cotent with the present status quo) (5:4).
- Will inherit the earth – the new promised land (Rev 21:1), when they are meek and humble towards God and are submissive and obedient to Him (5:5).
- Will be filled with righteousness from God when they long (hunger and thirst and will not give up their want is satisfied) for personal righteousness and justice for the oppressed (5:6)
- Will be shown mercy by the Lord who is judge over all (Rom 2:16, 2 Tim 4:1) and has power & authority to throw you into hell (Luke 12:4-5), when they themselves show mercy (5:7) (See also the parable of the Unforgiving servant, Matt 18:21-35)
- Will see God when they are pure in the heart (5:8) because the Lord Himself is holy and pure (1 Pet 1:16)
- Will be called Children of God, having his reconciliatory nature when they are live their lives as peacemakers (5:9; James 3:17-18)
- Are given the Kingdom of heaven (as in every case above, which is suggested by the bracketing structure of the verses) when they are persecuted because of righteousness (clearly pointing out that their righteousness is obvious and not hidden within – see later) (5:10). By contrast wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10)
Jesus then expounds on the last point emphasising it, stating that genuine Christians will reflect His light of righteousness and that will result in persecution because of Jesus (rather than because of our own sin). This is in agreement with Phil 1:27-30 that we will know we are saved when we live out the Gospel in our lives and are (or such that we are) persecuted for it.
The passage of salt and light comes immediately after this and perhaps in Jesus teaching it would not have a heading entitled “salt and light”. Even if it had been a different scene, the author Matthew under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as he wrote Scripture chose to place it immediately after the Beatitudes as he felt it built on the idea. In both cases, the context is important and should be interpreted in that light.
So although the disciples were persecuted (God allowed it as they had a role to play) they – (Greek: plural and emphatic – meaning “You and only you”) – are the salt. It was without doubt that salt was unique with no substitute, intrinsically precious and valuable with a very important purpose. In the context, we can understand that it prevented moral and spiritual decay just as salt preserves. We recall the works of the prophets who all reminded the people of God’s standard and the judgement when they followed their own ways.
If we are impure and not salty, you can dump a ton of stuff around and we would not make any difference but if we are salty, we will be effective wherever we are
But Jesus also warned about losing its saltiness. For scientists, we know that chemical salt is salt and cannot lose it intrinsic properties unless it becomes something else. But for the people of the day, salt was prepared from the Dead Sea and impurities and contamination made it lose its flavour and saltiness. Jesus declared those waste to be thrown out and trampled underfoot (5:13). Following on the theme, it would make sense if Jesus is saying if we, though precious and unique, (made pure and holy ie washed, sanctified and justified in Jesus and the Holy Spirit – 1 Cor 6:11) get so contaminated by the world (particularly by sexual immorality, 1 Cor 6:9, 13-20) that we fail to prevent its decay then we are useless. For we were saved for a purpose – to serve the living God (Heb 9:14). I believe that this is firstly about being salt rather than being sprinkled in the world and doing Christian service among non-Christians. Why? Because if we are impure and not salty you can dump a ton of stuff around and we would not make any difference but if we are salty, we will be effective wherever we are – a pinch is sufficient to give flavour. In other words, it is about being holy, poor in Spirit, righteous, meek, merciful etc to the point that others persecute you for it as is clearly described by Jesus in the preceding verses. It is about being rather than doing since it follows the Be-attitudes rather than the Do-attitudes. It is also clear that from our “being” our actions will result praise to the Father (5:16). Our call is to be holy like God (not just better men) to make sure that all glory is given to the Father (5:16).
The next verses about Jesus referring to us as the light when He Himself was “The Light of the World” (John 8:12; John 9:5) clearly suggests that we are to carry on the work of Christ by letting the light of Christ shine through us just as a town on a hill cannot be hidden (5:14). Like a town on a hill acting as a landmark, we are to be lights in the dark world, like moral & spiritual compasses always pointing to and living out Christ’s standards as found in His Word, the Bible. While images of saints on stained glass correctly convey the idea that we must let the light of Christ shine through us, most people inside the building admire the stained glass itself rather than the sun. As someone preached before, would not a plain and simple clear glass lamp do a better job of letting most of the light shine through, drawing attention to the light within? Just like having the treasure of the Gospel in jars of clay to show that the power is from God (2 Cor 4:7).
The preceding verses in the beatitudes clearly suggests that for most of the attributes we need to strive to attain (by the power of the Holy Spirit) and hence are active – eg mourning, hungering for righteousness, being merciful, being meek, being poor in spirit, being peacemakers rather than passive (ie poor in Spirit and being persecuted). We need to take an active part in ensuring our actions and attitudes do not cover the light of Christ within – that is living a life of purity, righteousness and love. That is what it means to live out our salvation (Phil 2:12-23), to live up to what we have already attained (Phil 3:16) and that we should run in such a way to win the prize (1 Cor 9:24). Our actions should stem from being holy, righteous and loving, living in forgiveness and also should reflect our value and identity in Christ.
Jesus left no doubt as to the purpose of the light and our role as light of the world – that a lamp is not to be hidden under a bowl but put on a lamp stand to give light to everyone in the house (5:15). Hence, we need to illuminate the darkness in the world not by simply by taking up social causes but by living out & exemplifying scripture (Thy word is a lamp – it guides, Psm 119:105) to illuminate the injustice and then tend to the needs of the oppressed without being polluted by the world as in James 1:27. We do it such a way that it must be clear to people that the light comes from Christ within so that they may see our good deeds and glorify the Father in heaven (5:16).
1. Our actions should stem from being holy, righteous and loving, in forgiveness and also should reflect our value and identity in Christ.
2. Disciples of Christ who live out our salvation and live up to their value in Christ are the keys to the preservation and illumination of society, drawing people to Christ.
3. When we focus on the being Christ-like, good deeds will flow to either cause some to praise God or will be at odds with the world who will retaliate with persecution.