In yesterday’s post, I provided some biblical-theological reflection on the theme of “light” in Scripture. These biblical truths and gospel realities are foundational to our identity as God’s people and instructional to our mission in the world. In particular, I would like to argue that communities of light are (1) counter-cultural, (2) confessional, and (3) compassionate.
The most obvious implication of being a light-embodying community is the qualitative distinctiveness we are called to bear in a world characterized by darkness. We a city on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matt. 5:14). God delivered us out of the domain of darkness that we might put the character of God on display in a world that cannot bear to see the light. As God’s representatives, we are commissioned to reflect God’s holiness and righteousness in a world characterized by ungodliness and unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18). As God’s representatives, we are commissioned to hold fast the world of truth as lights in the midst of a “crooked and twisted generation” (Phil. 2:14-16).
As a counter-cultural community, followers of Jesus have a responsibility not only to avoid fellowship with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14), but they must expose their unfruitful works as well (Eph. 5:11). The temptation with this responsibility is to excuse the unnecessary offensiveness of irresponsible and often times foolish behavior of immature Christians. The knee-jerk reaction to wrong-headed approaches to be a counter-cultural community of light tends to downplay the significance of being light. This is rather unfortunate because the illustration of darkness and light could not be more stark in contrasting terms, and the responsibility of believers to be a distinct counter-cutural community more clear in its calling. Time and again, we are commanded to cast off the works of darkness and walk in the light (Luke 11:33-36; John 12:35-36; Rom. 13:12-14; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; Eph. 5:3-14; 1 Thess. 5:4-8; 1 John 1:5-7). If we are going to be the people of God, we must faithfully live out our identity as children of light and fulfill our mission of declaring the excellencies of God who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9).
Before I go on to the next practical implication, we must be careful to avoid one major assumption. The basis of us being counter-cultural is not being moral in our behavior or conservative in our values. What makes us counter-cultural is Jesus. He is the light of the world. We have entered His kingdom and submitted to His reign and rule. He is the one who has made a new humanity and sets the grounds on which we live, and move and have our being. To the extent that we embrace the gospel and its implications in all of life and unreservedly submit to His rightful and universal claim as Lord is the degree to which we can legitimately consider ourselves a counter-cultural community of light.