“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV)
Over the years, I have heard stories of pastors and ministers who regularly visit bars and taverns as part of their ministry. There is one story in particular that has stuck with me. This pastor used to frequent a local drinking establishment on a regular basis as part of his ministry. He abstained from alcohol, imbibing only in sodas.
But this pastor went for one reason: to minister to a young woman who frequented there. She was a lonely person who came to the bar for camaraderie, a sense of belonging, a way to fill the void she felt in her life. On her birthday, the pastor threw a party there in her honor. She cried. Nobody else had cared. No one had ever been so kind or shown her such love.
There are those who would hear of a pastor frequenting a bar and immediately begin throwing out negative judgments. But the truth of the matter is, Jesus didn’t exactly hang out with the up-and-coming crowd in Galilee. When He did dine at the home of a Pharisee leader, Jesus wasn’t exactly politically correct in what He said or did (read Luke 14:1-24). But Jesus’ motives were (obviously) far more pure than those of the Pharisees. It was not “pc” to heal a man on the Sabbath. It was even worse to do it in a Jewish ruler’s home.
But Jesus wasn’t merely rebelling against the rules and regs of the religious elite. He was revealing the truth of God through his dinner visit. He was showing that what we do is not nearly as important as why. Here sits Jesus, in the home of a powerful man, surrounded by equally status-rich fellow guests, talking to them about humility, rebuking them to sit not by the guest of honor, but “in the lowest place,” so that others may honor you (as opposed to honoring one’s self). He tells them, when they throw a dinner party, don’t invite the people who will repay you or make you look good. “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:13-14, ESV).
The point is simply this: motive is everything. “Why” trumps “what.” There is no human being who is disqualified to receive the love of God, regardless of their station in life or how checkered their past. Nobody is beyond God’s reach.
We are the light of the world. Light is most effective when it shines in dark places. Where can you light some darkness today?