As we prepare to publish the next block of blog posts and podcast episodes, we’ll be coming back to Matthew 5 a few times, as it’s been on my mind a lot the past couple months. First, though, let’s take a few minutes to read an excerpt from the beginning of the chapter, and reflect on it together.
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 5:11–16 (NASB)
This passage can easily appear to contradict itself: Either we’re going to get persecuted when we do good things, or we’re going to cause people to glorify God when we do good things. Which is it?
Through the prophet Jeremiah, the God of the Bible describes himself as the God who exercises “love, justice and righteousness” in the world. That world is the only world any of us have ever known, and it is not naturally loving, just or righteous. It is broken and fallen. Living in the model of Christ means introducing love, justice and righteousness into an environment where they are destabilizing elements. Making such radical changes to the only environment someone has ever known can understandably leave them mad, disoriented and eager to go back to the way things were.
But that broken, fallen world was made by God, and all the people in it are crafted in his image. Living as that God’s hands and feet won’t just destabilize the status quo—it will also offer people the clearest possible articulations of their hearts’ deepest longings. Some will lash out, but others will be grateful for the evidence that the things they always suspected but never dared hope for are actually true.
If the gospel is true, then telling people who are growing in Christ to expect both persecution and affirmation isn’t a cheat—it just makes sense.
What might seem like love, justice or righteousness to someone else that would actually be unpleasant or uncomfortable for you?
- Thank God for specific ways you have been encouraged or helped by the good works of other Christians acting as his body and presence.
- Confess that you only see “through a glass dimly,” and don’t yet fully understand how God wants to work in the lives of people around you and make his character known to them.
- Ask God to reveal opportunities to practice love, justice and righteousness in new and uncomfortable ways.
FOUNDATIONS OF CHRISTIAN CIVIC ENGAGEMENT: UPCOMING CLASS IN WASHINGTON, DC
Saturday, April 27, 2019
9:30 am – 2:00 pm
Our political landscape is changing, and connecting our ancient faith to the modern realities of representative government is harder than ever. This dynamic introduction to political diversity and civic responsibility is the jumping-off point to a richer, more empowering relationship between your faith and your politics. Through presentations, movie clips, prayer exercises and peer-to-peer discussion, we’ll work through major questions about faith and politics, including why Christians should pursue active citizenship, how to distinguish yourself from non-Christians in the public square, and the proper role of political diversity in the church. Visit our website for tickets and location information.