“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.”
For years this verse has served to defend the example that Christians are to make for the world to follow. “You are the light of the world,” Jesus says, “a city built on a hill cannot be hid.” Which is to say, you are shining as a light for others to see the error of their ways. Just as a city on a hill can be seen by all, so will your discipleship shine gloriously in order to transform the world.
But what if we’ve been reading it wrong? Or at least, what if there is a different way to read that verse?
Christians are almost always under the proverbial magnifying glass within the local community and at large. Just turn on the news and you will hear of scandals in Catholic and Protestant churches. The smallest bit of controversial news can take on a completely different manner once it is revealed that a Christian is part of the spectacle. Whether we recognize it or not, the world has expectations of us regarding our behavior and commitment to the gospel; we are held to a standard of excellence by those within, and those outside of, the church.
In many ways the verse from Matthew could be read as, “You must be like a city on a hill, like a lamp in full view.” The desire to appear perfect as an example for all others is worthy of consideration and application, however, we need to remember that we will continue to fall short of God’s glory; we are not perfect beings. We are under the microscope of the community because of our commitment to be God’s people for the world.
So, instead of self-righteously proclaiming that we are the perfect example for the world to follow, perhaps we should instead recognize how visible we are to the world. Our faithful discipleship should be driven by our love of God, rather than wanting to the world to see how great and wonderful we are. Let us all strive to be the light of the world, not for our own glory, but for the glory of God to shine through us.