By: Zach Collins
“The past few days when I’ve been at that window upstairs, I’ve thought a bit of the ‘shining city upon a hill’ …I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind, it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still…” – Ronald Reagan
I love that reference, “a shining city upon a hill.” These are the words of the 44th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan. This is an excerpt from his Presidential Farewell Address in the year of 1989. In this address, he referenced many things, including his accomplishments, the accomplishments of the American people, and the hope that America represents to the rest of the World. One of those hopes, in his words, is akin to a, “shining city upon a hill.” A beacon of hope within the World, where immigrants and dreamers come to find security and prosperity. A home where pilgrims from the darkest places around the globe can find freedom. But, as much as I love this speech, and that specific reference, Reagan credits this reference to another person, John Winthrop. In a speech given aboard the Arabella, the flagship of the Winthrop fleet, John Winthrop laid out his dream for the “New World.” In this dream, he referenced the “New World” as a “city upon a hill”, a place of unity and brotherhood devoted to the work of God. A place of great healing for those who sought religious freedom, where aspirations bloom and dreams come to life. While I don’t agree with the biblical teachings of Winthrop, this vision was important, as Winthrop was an early “freedom-man”. He, and the puritans, were searching for a home free of religious persecution, never knowing, only dreaming, of the possibilities that lied within the ‘New World’. But, this was not John Winthrop’s slogan to trademark either. Who first made this reference? Jesus. In Matthew 5:14, Jesus says,
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Now, who or what is Jesus referring to with this reference? Is he referring to an actual town or city? No. Is he referring to the United States? No. He is referring to Christians. This is the vision that Jesus had for His followers. As Christians, in the eyes of our savior, we are to be the light of the world, akin to a “City Upon a Hill”, or a city that cannot be hidden (Matt. 5:14). Through our Christianity, we are separate and apart from other things, a beacon of Faith that stems from the love of God. According to Peter, we are God’s special possession, a chosen people called out of darkness into His wonderful light (1 Pet. 2:9). It was the vision of Jesus Christ for us to be the light of the world. Now, let me ask a question. As Christians, do we live up to this vision? In other words, are we, as Christians, a beacon of Faith to others in our community? When someone says your name, is it synonymous with your Faith in God? Or, is your name synonymous with something else? It is my prayer that others see a beacon of Faith within your identity. Are we, as Christians, the light of the world? Do you brighten the darkest days with your Faith and trust in God? When someone sees your face, do they smile or groan? Or, do you hide your light under sin, ashamed of your identity in Christ? I hope not. It is my prayer that we are the light of the world, shining our Godly light to the lost who need a path of righteousness.
When Jesus committed the ultimate sacrifice (Luke 23), it was not common or normal. Rather, transcendent and righteous. It provided us with a path to salvation and a light to walk upon the path of righteousness. As Christians, we should revere that solemn sacrifice by mirroring the attributes of the Savior who committed the sacrifice, becoming a light to the world (Rom. 12:1). As Jesus made a sacrifice, we should sacrifice certain aspects within our life by committing faithfully to the doctrine of Christ, separating ourselves by becoming uniquely separate from the world. It is my prayer that we become a beacon of Faith to others, shining our Godly light to those who are lost in the darkest of storms (Matt. 5:16). By doing so, it is my prayer that we fulfill the vision that Jesus sets forth for us in Matt. 5:14, becoming “The light of the world.”
Is your Christian light akin to a city upon a hill or is your light hidden?
Reader’s Verse of Encouragement: 1 John 1:17
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
FYI: If you’re looking for a daily dose of patriotism, watch Ronald Reagan’s Presidential Farewell Address. (Spoiler Alert) It is an inspirational tear-jerker. Click the link below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c32G868tor0