The Light of Christ

(Matthew 5:13-16)

This past Monday a college campus, a community, and really our entire country experienced another tragic event as a young man killed over 30 people on the Virginia Tech Campus. And as that community is brought to their knees by grief and sorrow, we too feel the effects as we can only imagine what the families of those killed, the family of the shooter, and the injured must be experiencing.

It seems with increased frequency we are seeing the use of violence as the preferred response for dealing with life's issues, we see this in our families, our schools, and in our community. This past week several bomb threats at schools school's around the country were reported, bullying was taking place on school grounds, and domestic violence was occurring in homes.

Two weeks ago we learned of a man who found humor in degrading others by using inappropriate language. His latest victims being the Rutgers's women's basketball team.

And there are many more instances of egregious dehumanization taking place throughout our society on a daily basis that are equally as tragic. You know God must be absolutely beside himself because of the way the pinnacle of his creation treats one another.

As I listen to the response to these latest high profile events, the topic of news shows and talk shows often centers on the rights of individuals, who to point fingers at, what laws need to be changed or instituted, and who should pay. The trouble with all of this talk is that it's taking a moral issue and making it a political issue, something that people like the mainstream media are very good at.

You see most public officials aren't addressing the real issue. They're arguing over the symptoms and consequences, looking for quick band-aid solutions when in fact we need to be addressing the deeper root cause of such terrible actions.

The issue isn't who has the right to use the "N" word or any other dehumanizing words, the issue isn't who has the right to bear arms, the issue isn't trying to figure out who to blame. What lies at the core of all these issues is the blatant disregard for the soul of creation, and disrespect for the sacredness of life. The fundamental problem with our society today is that in the name of individualism we've done away with the teachings modeled for us by Jesus Christ.

Now there will certainly be tragedies that mental illness and other disorders will trigger, as seems to be the case in the Virginia Tech shootings. But by and large the people who decide to lash out at others with hateful words, angry and abusive actions and extreme violence are not mentally ill, they simply don't know of any other way of dealing with their issues, or they just don't care because they're so focused on self.

As our society has been watching all week the events unfold at Virginia Tech, so-called experts are already offering solutions, but the solutions they offer don't deal with the real problem.

  • The life-changing answer isn't metal detectors, more security cameras, or making our schools a mighty fortress.
  • The life-changing answer isn't debating over who has the right to use the "N" word, and then coming up with laws about who can say what.
  • The life-changing answer isn't pointing fingers at one another and trying to figure out who to sue.

The issues we face go much deeper, are much more fundamental, and require a life-changing intervention.

The main problem our society is experiencing is fueled again by the promotion of individualism to the extreme that Christ is no longer part of our lives. We don't know, understand, or take seriously Christ's second command "to love our neighbors as ourselves." If we want to change the world we need more Jesus not less.

Think about it, if we taught the ways of Jesus, and if we lived according to the ways of Jesus, I'm persuaded we wouldn't have all the incidents of anger, hate, abuse, and violence we now experience.

Now humanity has always had problems, our history tells us that, but in my mind over the last 60 years or so we've regressed tremendously. As we have become more enlightened as some say, we've become more self -concerned, more self-reliant, more competitive, and more pluralistic. Why has this happened?

Well it's my assertion this increase in hate, anger, abuse, and violence is happening because many no longer live in the light of Christ, or share the light of Christ with others. Self has become more important than others; self has become more important than the greater society we live in.

Our families have become torn apart, we glorify hate and violence in movies and video games, our schools have had the light of Christ removed from their walls and curriculum, and the churches have become empty halls of pews and stained-glass windows.

Now some argue that the role of teaching Christian morals and values belongs in the family. And I agree this is where the teaching ought to begin, but this assumes there is a family, and it assumes the parents know what good Christian values and morals are, and this further assumes the family actually embraces and practices them.

But my observations tell me that many in our society no longer value or teach Christian morals and values, pursuing instead the religion of political correctness individualism, and pluralism. Pluralism meaning a thinking that all things point to God and truth, so your truth works for you and my truth works for me, actually another component of individualism.

You know our kids are born as innocent beings craving knowledge, and have an eagerness to learn. Yet too many parents turn the role of teacher over to television and video games, they count on schools to teach their children the difference between right and wrong. But our schools are limited to what they can teach and can't teach because of laws that prevent appropriate discipline and learning.

Some families count on the church to lift up right living, yet the church can't teach if the people aren't present. And teaching in any form is diminished if it's not embraced and reinforced in the home.

If the African proverb is correct, that "it takes a village to raise a child," then we need a village that not only accepts the responsibility of raising children in a Christian way, but we need a village that knows what to teach.

Through conversations with some of you and my own observations, what's become clear to me is that children today, in some cases, aren't given a chance to grow up with right teaching, they aren't given the chance to grow up with Christ as part of their lives. And I am fully persuaded that unless Christ is a central part of all stages of our lives trouble and evil are lurking in the shadows ready to take over control of our thinking and actions. It's this trouble that leads to the violence and hatred we experienced the last couple of weeks.

Also, without Christ in our lives, working through the dark times we all will face from time to time becomes all the more difficult, which in turn can lead to further tragedy.

Our scripture reading this morning follows the beatitudes as part of Jesus Sermon on the Mount. Now the Sermon on the Mount was probably preached over a couple of days and it was a period of time when Jesus was proclaiming his attitude toward the law.

And the message Jesus was conveying was that authority, position, titles, and money are not important in his kingdom - what really matters is faithful obedience to God, an obedience that comes from the heart, not from some legalistic observance. And nothing has changed over the past 2000 years. God wants nothing less than our heartfelt obedience. If we are being obedient to God then we're not engaging in things that are counter to God's law, and you know what, hate, anger, abuse, and violence are diminished.

In verse 13 Jesus refers to salt and its ability to season. If the salt lacks saltiness it no longer has flavor, and is of little value. Well, if Christians make no effort to influence and change the world for Jesus sake, we too have little value to God. Christians are not called to blend in with the world; we're called to influence the world in a positive way, just as seasoning enhances the flavoring in food. Can you imagine what the world would be like if all Christians were the "salt of the earth?"

There would be no need for metal detectors, extra security, time wouldn't be wasted on debating who can say what word, and people would treat others as brothers and sisters in Christ.

I'm also confident God wants us to be the light of the world. The church is supposed to be a conduit of the light, and each of us is to be a visible channel for the light of Christ. Just as we can't loose our bold seasoning, we can't hide the light of Christ within us, or within the walls of this building. We need to share the light of Christ; we need to be the influential city on the hill that can't be hidden.

Our vision here at Trinity is to be the "visible and active presence of Jesus Christ in the world." In biblical terms this means we are called to be the salt of the earth and to be that city on a hill where the light never stops shining.

  • Our society doesn't need more analysis of hate and violence.
  • Our society doesn't need more laws.
  • Our society doesn't need more media coverage. " What our society needs is a savior!

So very practically speaking what does all of this mean for us?

Well I'm really concerned about the children and youth of today, and I'm convinced God wants us more involved with children here at Trinity so that we're sharing with our children at an early age the teachings of Jesus with the hope are children will learn how to deal with life's issues in a Christ-like way rather than in a violent way.

To this end what is God calling us to do? Are we being called to develop a second site campus to offer a Christian pre-school, Christian teaching, are we being called to develop a Christian academy for children and youth. I don't know, and I welcome your thoughts, wisdom, and guidance. You see the church exists to influence society, to be the moral compass, to be God's voice in the midst of his creation. This is our God-given task. Now there's no doubt the light of Christ is shining bright in the Virginia Tech community right now. You can see God's grace is helping the healing process. But the light of Christ is not meant to be reactionary, it's meant to be proactively influential.

So if we want to influence our society for Jesus sake, and infuse the light of Christ into our society's thinking then we must help all people connect with God, empower them to grow in their faith and to understand their God-given purpose, and equip them to go and be the light of Christ in the world.

This is why I firmly believe God has a vision for us to share the light of Christ with the children of this community in a new and profound way. Now this isn't to the exclusion of all others, but I do sense we are being called for a specific ministry to children.

So parents please hear me. I'm committed to helping you make life and this community better for your children. I'm committing to partner with you, the key word being partner, to make a difference in your children's lives, by seeking change in our society and by equipping your children to be the future leaders of the world.

I'm willing to meet with you and other families to reflect on the problem and to develop actions we can take together, I'm willing to facilitate community discussions in your homes or here at the church about what we can do together to make our community a place of strong Christian influence, and I'm sure there are others here today that will facilitate discussions of how the church can help, if my presence might be an obstacle for sharing the hard truth. I'm very serious about this, so please let me know what I can do, and what the church can do.

So I invite all of us into a journey of change, a journey that calls for us to build a bridge to the future while walking on it, meaning we begin the journey and allow God to lead the way.

Society must change or the occurrence of more Virginia Tech's and Don Imus' will increase. It only took one person to change the lives of many people this week. Imagine what kind of change a community of Christians could make.

Too many people just accept society as it is, so we conform and live in a state of passive acceptance. But when we accept the world as it is, we fail to see the possibilities and opportunities God presents.

Our society, our world can be better. So it's time we stop seeing ourselves as victims of our society and transform ourselves into active powerful agents of Christ. It's then we can change the world.

The Bible says "…we reap what we sow. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." (Gal. 6:7-8). So what is it we want to reap?

God empowers us to have extraordinary influence on the world, to be catalysts of change, and the change I'm talking about is a deep change that begins with us. We need to take a hard look at our individual lives and claim where we have fallen short of the glory of the Lord. We need to claim our hypocrisy and we need to make Christ a priority. If we don't, we will most certainly reap what we sow. And if were not sowing a life in Christ what are we sowing?

To be effective catalysts of change we must become the change we want to see in the world; and this is a topic I plan to share more fully in next weeks message.

So in this season of Easter, we are reminded that Jesus the victim, became Jesus the victor, the one crucified was resurrected in an action by God that proclaimed resurrection is the final answer to hatred, anger, abuse and violence.

But we also have much work to do. And God doesn't want us to rely on resurrection at the end of life, God wants us to live a redeemed life now, and through the power of the Holy Spirit be constantly creating a world more like the kingdom of God, free of hate, free of anger, free of abuse, and free of violence. This society needs a new beginning, a new heart, a heart of Christ. So we must seek positive kingdom change in our society by being the salt of the earth, and that city on a hill that faithfully lives and shares the light of Christ. Thanks be to God!


Read other messages by Pastor Wade