If anyone else had said it we would have thought him insane. He was surrounded by a large group of nobodies—Galilean peasants, wannabe-successful fishermen, a few intrigued Pharisees, riffraff, and religious zealots. On a hillside, in a far-flung corner of a little-known backwoods of the Roman Empire, there sat a carpenter encircled by a crowd of insignificant, ignorant followers. And without a trace of irony, or a momentary hesitation, he stated loud and clear the Messianic Principle of World Change:
“You are the light of the world; you are the salt of the earth.”
I imagine a fair few of them, when they first heard that statement, glanced over their shoulders to see if a cohort of senior religious leaders, a jewel-encrusted aristocrat, or a military general or two had at last turned up. Surely he must be addressing someone else, not us, not this group of paltry peasants. Perhaps they even thought he was joking, until they looked carefully into that face and discerned nothing but warm-hearted, genuine belief. Yes, you can change the world.
Unless anyone reading the above think I make this point because I am defending uneducated, unsophisticated, or plain inaccurate understandings of Christian faith, let me summarize my personal biography in two sentences. Sentence one: Private prep school British culture, Cambridge University-educated culminating in PhD in theology, fellow of Jonathan Edwards College at Yale University. Sentence two: I count all as loss for the sake of Christ.
The Messianic Principle of World Change tells us that those who follow him are the light of the world. Whoever follows him. Not just the cultural elite, or (inverse snobbery) the poor or disadvantaged. Anyone and everyone who follows Jesus is part of his program for changing the world. To establish the truth of that principle consider a counterintuitive example, a democratic observation, and a contrarian conclusion.