When I read Jesus saying, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” I think of two things. First, I think of the priest of my childhood, The Reverend David Powers Thomas, who used this passage in its KJV form to invite the congregation to the Offertory. “Let your light so shine before men [others] that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Second, in a problematic bit of juxtaposition that I’m certain makes Dave smile while he is seated at the heavenly banquet, I think of the closing scene from The 40 Year-Old Virgin.
Of course, one is the actual verse from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount about letting the light of Christ shine through you, and the other is a song about new age hippie crap like letting the sun shine into you, but as you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m not in the least bit normal.
Having suitably digressed this morning, I’ll come back to my point: being a Christian means being a role model. To be clear, aren’t required to live moral lives in order to gain our salvation. Instead, our response to God’s amazing gift of grace should be to live lives worthy of the Kingdom. That means doing things like seeking peace in the midst of conflict or finding hope in the midst of despair or putting the needs of others above ourselves or, as Jesus puts it here, doing “good works.” Living life as a follower of Jesus should look different from the life lived by everybody else.
This is a difficult concept for most 21st century American Christians (myself included) because over the years discipleship and citizenship have become so co-mingled as to be unrecognizable from the other. That is to say, discipleship has been co-opted by the empire so that being a Christian now means fitting in to the society at large: getting an education, going to work, getting married, having 2.5 children, paying your taxes, and, as The 7 Experiment is showing me, buying the daylights out of everything to keep the giant economic machine churning.
Yet, the things Jesus talks about in the Sermon on the Mount seem to call us to something different. Something more simple. Something impossibly more difficult. I’m not sure how we extricate ourselves from this co-mingling. There are some – like Shane Claiborne who felt called to follow the example of the divine Word and “move into the neighborhood” or Jen Hatmaker and her husband, Brandon, who gave up their mega-church for a humble community seeking to serve Jesus – for whom this change is life shattering, but I’m not sure that everyone is called to give it all up. We can’t all live in the poor neighborhood, they wouldn’t stay that way for long.
So, how do the rest of us live lives that allow the light of Christ to shine through us in the midst of the messiness of this world? How do we let others see the glory of God through our normal, everyday actions?