The church is meant to be a light to the world. We are meant to be different.
This week’s study of the Kingdom of God emphasizes the confrontation between Jesus and Satan. This isn’t just about what happened in ancient Palestine. In fact, there is an ongoing confrontation between Jesus and Satan that takes place in the life of the believer, and even in the church.
The church is meant to be a light to the world. We are meant to be different. We are supposed to be an example of what living for God is all about. If this is the case, and God means to shine through the church, then how do we see God’s character in our modern church? Jesus told His disciples that they are to be “ ‘the light of the world. A city 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 men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven’ ” (Matt. 5:14-16, NIV).
We are God’s light in the world and we are expected purposefully to let the light of God’s character shine. Like a city, our light cannot be hidden, but like a lamp, it is an intentional act. We don’t hide what God has given to us, and we are told exactly how to let our lights shine: through good deeds.
Mother Teresa was a nun with an extraordinary capacity to love. When God revealed to her the mission He wanted her to accomplish, she said that He asked her to “Come be My light.” Mary Teresa did just that. She took off her nun’s habit, put on a white sari with blue trim, and went out into the slums of Calcutta, India. She nursed the poor and sick. She attended to the dying. She fed the hungry. She left the comfort and safety of her convent each day and devoted her life to the dirty, the destitute, the sick, and the unwanted. Other religious sisters joined her in her work and ever-expanding charities, and soon even non-believers joined in Mother Teresa’s cause. The world took notice! That kind of love can’t be ignored. She was given the Padmashri Award in 1962 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She is remembered for her goodness because she let God shine through her.
What about us? We have a mission to find God’s children and show them His light—His character. That is done through good deeds, but it is also done through education. Another aspect of God’s character is truth. The truth is rock solid, and it stands up to both criticism and investigation. God doesn’t ask us to accept a wishy-washy set of doctrines, to set aside our incredulity, to stop thinking. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Eccl. 9:10, NKJV). And that goes for whatever your mind finds to do too. It goes for investigating our beliefs. We are told to “call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, . . . look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure” (Prov. 2:3, 4, NIV). It isn’t fair simply to give the doctrines to the new believer and leave them alone with the weight of them. It is our responsibility to join them in the study, the search, and the investigation. It is up to us, as a church, to educate God’s children and show them how His truth is fully supported in His Word. Only when we can demonstrate how we personally have been fully convinced of the truth can we be convincing in the telling of it.
The last aspect of God’s character that we will look at is His righteousness. It is a large claim to say that the church exemplifies Christ’s righteousness, because the church is made up of sinful people who have all fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). However, the church strives to live by principles that bring us closer to God’s righteous way of living, through His grace. The church upholds the Ten Commandments and stands by His law.
The world expects something different from the church. Christians are held up to a different standard than non-believers. Christians are not expected to lie, be mean, cheat, steal, or commit adultery. If a worldly person does these things, the world shrugs its collective shoulders. When a Christian does these things, fingers of accusation are immediately pointed.
When a bank executive, a businessman, or a politician has some moral fall, the nation responds with a kind of delighted disgust, eagerly reading every morsel of juicy detail. But when the faulty person is also a Christian, especially one who had some kind of power or influence—a church leader or televangelist, for instance—there is often a different quality to the horrified interest. Christians seem to be often held up to a different, higher standard than the rest of the world.
God calls for perfection too. An example is Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:48, “ ‘Be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect’ ” (NKJV). So often, Christians and others think this means keeping a list of rules without mistakes. Everyone knows no one can do that, so when Christians fall, the world laughs as much as it shakes its collective head.
However, if we want to know how God defines perfection, we simply need to look at the parallel passage: “ ‘Love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful’ ” (Luke 6:35, 36, NKJV). To God, perfection equals perfect love, perfect generosity, perfect mercy. If people find that in a church, they will come.
And in a very real sense, when this is the story we’re telling the world, the battle between Christ and Satan—as carried out in the church—is won for God’s side. *