Jump Start # 2415
Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
The most unusual thing happened to me the other day. It’s the only time in my life that this has ever happened. I was eating at my favorite bar-b-que place in this area. Great food. Great mission and good that they are doing for the military and first responders. Love going there. Every day at noon they play the National Anthem. Everyone stops, stands and looks at the flag, even the employees. I always put my hand over my heart and on this day I was singing, but not too loud. Those that know me, know that I cannot sing. My wife, my kids, even my grandkids, can all sing. But not me. So, I was just focused on the flag, singing the National Anthem. No big deal. We all applauded when it was over. I sat down and went back to eating. An employee came up to me and wanted to thank me. Now, I’ve seen them do that before. Usually, it’s to thank a vet for serving. I’m not a vet. I was getting ready to correct her when she said, “I want to thank you for singing the National Anthem.” Then she handed me coupons for free food. I got a prize for singing! That’s never happened. If anything, people would give me cash to stop singing.
There was a greater lesson here. While I was looking at the flag, she was looking at me. She noticed. I didn’t notice that she had noticed. And, that brings us to our verse today. Light shining. A city on that hill cannot be hidden. People notice. People notice when you don’t know that they are watching. Sometimes it may not be the best times for us, but people notice. Now we expect people to be on their best behavior while sitting in a church building. But how about driving down the road? How about sitting in a boring meeting at work? How about while taking a test in college? How about when you are stressed, irritated and things are not going your way? After the National Anthem deal, I took a car to the dealership. I spent two hours in the waiting room listening to Dr. Phil and others on TV telling sad stories of terrible lives and terrible choices. I left with a headache. There were others waiting on their cars. People notice.
From the bar-b-que story, I realized that one never knows who is watching. How we carry ourselves and how we show our attitudes, and how kind or helpful we are is noticed. It’s noticed as we sit in waiting rooms. It’s noticed as we wait in traffic. It’s noticed as we stand in the check out line.
There is always one person who begins the complaining campaign. Waiting too long. Heavy sighs. Looking around. And, then, the complaints begin. And, once one begins, others follow. They have felt the same, but they didn’t have the nerve to be the first. Gloom and doom darkens the air because everyone is feeling down. Right then, you either join in that sad parade or you are that city on the hill. You don’t participate. You don’t join in that chorus. In fact, you try to turn the subject to something better.
I see this with the trial of Jesus. When Pilate asked what should be done with Jesus, the crowds shouted, “Crucify, crucify.” The text doesn’t tell us this specifically, but knowing human nature, I expect one guy shouted that and soon, the whole group was doing the same. It’s called a mob mentality.
The same is found within a church. One person gets disgusted with the leaders and starts the rant to change the preacher or remove the elders, and you’ll find others who join in on that song. Rather than going to a person specifically, and talking face to face, the mob is ready to tar and feather and run a guy out of town. Mobs don’t listen to reason. Mobs run on emotions. Get enough folks stirred up, and you’re likely to have a cattle stampede.
A city on a hill. Jerusalem was a city on a hill. Folks would travel there to worship God. As they walked and drew closer, it could be seen. That’s the destination. That’s where we are going. You couldn’t miss it now. You could see it. And by connecting “light” with “city on a hill” we get the idea of traveling at night. It’s dark all around us. The stars shine. The moon may be out. But in that far distance, you could see a faint glow. As we got closer, it became brighter and brighter. There was an attraction to it.
You’ll notice in our verse that Jesus says, “You ARE the light of the world.” He doesn’t say, you need to become. Or, you ought to be. Or, you’ll grow and someday be that. But we are. We are now. People notice. People notice when we don’t know that they are noticing.
Your anger. Your choice of words. Your attitude. Your behavior. Your choice of music. Your choice of dress. Your spirit. Your reactions. The way you handle grief. The way you handle success. The way you deal with stress. The way you handle a bad day. The way you handle a good day. You are noticed. You are seen. There’s no hiding that city on a hill and there is no hiding you.
Now from this, we learn:
Because people notice, I may be the closest example to Jesus that some will ever see. That’s a lot of pressure, but we can handle it. This is why Jesus put this on us. You ARE, He said. Some may never open a Bible. Some see others who claim to be Christians, but then they talk about getting drunk on weekends, they gossip about everyone, they cheat if they can get away with it and people see this. They are a phony. But you are different. They see that. They appreciate that. Honest to the core. Refusing to talk bad about anyone. Spiritual. Kind. Hopeful. Optimistic. That’s how they see Jesus. They get that because that’s how they see you.
Because people notice, it’s a lot easier to talk about evangelism. They see you. They see sincerity. They see in you something that is missing in their lives. This is why so many of our children have grown to become Christians. They saw that city every day at home. They saw it on vacations. They saw it when it was difficult. They saw it when the easy thing to do was to hide things and make an appearance of what is right, but that didn’t happen. The demon possessed man was told by Jesus to go home to his people and report what great things the Lord had done. Talking to “his people.” People notice.
Because people notice, some will criticize. As I was singing the National Anthem at my bar-b-que place, I saw a man sitting nearly under the flag, who didn’t sing, and didn’t put his hand over his heart. He barely removed his hat. I felt like asking him if he was an American, but I remembered to be that city on a hill. Because you are that city, you are noticed. Not everyone will like what they see. They don’t like that you refuse to drink, laugh at smutty jokes, talk dirty, flirt around and have a good time. They see you as a bore. And with that often comes the snide remarks. The cutting things just loud enough for you to hear. The silence when you walk into a room. Being excluded and ignored comes with being noticed. Some Christians struggle with this. Some don’t do well, so they want to turn the lights out on that hill. They don’t want to be noticed. They would rather blend in and fit in, but that will never happen when we are walking with Jesus. We don’t fit in this world. We don’t belong here. This world is not our home.
People are watching. They are watching the way you worship. They are watching you at work. They are watching you at home. Some notice you when you do not even know. If you are that city, you’ll be fine.