Context is Important

"Ye are the light of the world. A City that is set on a hill cannot be hid" (Matthew 5:14).

The previous verse (13) says "ye are the salt of the earth." These two word pictures of Jesus cause me to wrestle as a Seventh-day Adventist minister. Why? Because my denomination is very much into being a "called out" people. We quote from Revelation 18:4: "And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues."

We resonate with the call by Christ to be "light." But the statement of our Lord is not simply to be "light" or even simply to be "salt." Rather, it is to be light and salt in context. We must be authentically connected to heaven as light and in actual fact immersed in the world.

So here's my wrestling: the way we do church depends largely upon how we view ourselves. If we only see ourselves as light, we design our services, our evangelistic entry events, our ministries to cater to people who understand and have already accepted that which we have come to understand as "light."

But Jesus said we are the light of the world. Jesus was incarnational. I see Jesus' statement in Matthew 5 as telling us that we are to be incarnational like our great Exemplar. He did not come to us speaking the language of Heaven; we would not have understood Him! He came speaking the common Hebrew of 1st century Palestine. He wore the apparel and ate the food of that culture and time.

I fear that by ignoring the entire phrase "light OF THE WORLD"  we are unwittingly making ourselves irrelevant and, ultimately, ineffective at reaching the masses.

To be sure, what church is has already been defined by Christ.Yet what church is must be recognizable by the people Christ has called us to bring to Him.

Church is not what it was 30 or 40 years ago. Some of us are holding with a death grip to that image of the church in the 60s and 70s. And we cling to that nostalgic image while forgetting that church in the 60s and 70s looked nothing like the house churches of the Apostolic era.

Why are we holding so tightly to tradition? Jesus called us to be the light OF THE WORLD. The world needs the light, not our traditions. I think it is possible to adapt without losing the essence of a thing. Model T Fords were vehicles. And the Ford Explorer I was following just the other day out at Pine Forge was too. The Ford Motor Company has adapted with changing times.

It concerns me that our Baptist, Methodist and AME brothers and sisters have adapted, but most SDA Churches remain stuck to a model that is increasingly unrecognizable as "church" to the 21st century world we are called to reach.


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