Today’s passage: Matthew 5:13-16
God is king, and in his kingdom, things are the way that God wants them to be. Which, since God is God, makes God’s kingdom the best place for us to be. God is love, and his kingdom is a place of love. God is perfect, and his kingdom is a place sans any sinfulness or brokenness or imperfection. It’s a place where there are no tears, where there is no danger, and where there is no death. It is the perfect place, because it is ruled by the perfect king.
But we live on the rebel world; the domain of Satan. We live in a kingdom set up against God’s kingdom; where people refuse God’s right to order the world, let alone our lives. The very first sin, we’re told, sprang at least in part from a desire to be like God. We think that we can run our lives and our world just fine without him.
The problem, of course, is that we can’t. Our world is a place of sin and violence and degradation and death. The good world that God made has been shattered by our rebellion against God.
But God is not just some uninterested third-party in all of this. God made us, and loves us, and longs for us to be in relationship with him. That, after all, is what we were created for – to know God and enjoy him forever. And so God acted – with a plan he had formulated from before the world began. This plan centres on Jesus – God’s own, eternal Son. Jesus, fully God, became fully human to rescue all those who put their trust in him.
His message was simple: God’s kingdom was near. Simply repent, turn back to God, and believe the good news. The perfect kingdom of God invaded this rebel world in the person of King Jesus. He taught the kingdom life. And he enacted the kingdom in this world. By casting out demons, healing the sick, and speaking life, Jesus was giving humanity a foretaste of what life in the kingdom come will actually be like.
And this perfect kingdom’s king would die and rise again to rescue all who put their trust in him. All who put their trust in him are transferred through and in him from the kingdom of this world to the kingdom of God. Last week, we saw in the beatitudes that God’s kingdom turns this upside-down world right-side-up. In God’s kingdom, all are blessed by God. The kingdom isn’t just for the spiritual elite, or the high and mighty of this world. It is for all.
The Bible teaches us that one day, when Jesus returns, the kingdom of God will finally be the only kingdom there is. Everything shall be shaken, and only that which is unshakable – God and that which is his – shall remain.
That day might come at any moment. But until then, how are Jesus’ followers to live their lives? Over the next few weeks, as we dig into the sermon on the mount, we’ll see exactly what Jesus says about living the kingdom life today. But before getting into the details, it’s important to understand that Jesus’ followers have an important role to play in this world as it is. We are, says Jesus, the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Notice that he doesn’t say we are to be/become salt and light. He says that we are that. When the kingdom of God becomes the domain under which we live our lives, being salt and light is just a matter of what we are.
But what does it mean to be a salty Christian? Why does the earth need salting? And what is Jesus talking about when he asks how salt that has lost its saltiness can be made salty again?
And what does it mean to be the light of the world? Can there be such a thing as a “secret” Christian? What exactly is this light – and why does God want it to shine in this dark world?