Biblical Reflection: (in the Context of the Celebration of the International Indigenous Day on August 9, 2022)

Matthew 5:14 “You are the Light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid”

This Bible verse is found within the famous words of Jesus “Sermon on the Mount” that begins in the book of Gospel of Mathew chapter 5. This particular verse is set in the context of the beautiful yet hard teachings of Jesus “the Beatitudes”. When Jesus saw the multitude, who faithfully trusted him and followed him wherever he went and who were unmindful of their long and dusty journeys across the length and breadth, up and down of the Galilee, Samaria and other places. When I imagine the simple and many an unassuming people, who with their simple faith trying to understand the Kingdom’s value of love, hospitality, social ethical values and ethos that are embedded in Jesus’ teaching, I could see in them a group of people, children, youth, women and men of different calibers. I could connect the crowd who were following Jesus, especially with the tribal communities, who live on forest hills and mountains, with whom I interact in the course of the ministry I am engaging with as I travel the length and breadth of India.

When the eager followers of Jesus keenly listened to when he was using a simple metaphor of “light” to tell who they were, saying “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” I could see the enthusiastic tribal communities, young and old, whose sparkling eyes could connect themselves with that light of the world, the light that sparks on the hill top, illuminated by the gospel of Jesus. In one of the Missiological Study courses of Master of Theology under the Senate of Serampore College (University), India, there is one question that asks “Why are Jharkhand and North East India receptive to Christianity? The one important answer I could probably give is, for the tribal people especially who dwell on hills and mountain regions the gospel of Jesus makes meaning to them, literally connecting themselves with their geographical location. I imagine Jesus would have said a longer statement within our Indian context, saying “My people, who dwell on mountains and hills, who do not practice the evil of castecism, who believe in me and in my words, to lighten the world who are in darkness, to transform the world where darkness of ignorance and slaveries of castecism holds its fort, no one can ignore you, as you are the light, children of Zion that shine on the hill top.” This is how it would ring in the ears of the tribal Christian community when they read the Gospel of Matthew 5:14. The call is loud and clear, they are the light that shine on the hill to enlighten and dispel the darkness of social evils clouded by discriminations due to caste system, gender bias due to patriarchal structure, female foeticide, child marriage, dowry and its related evils, shrinking place of tribal women and men in their participation and their roles in the society. The call to the people on the hills is not to always remain on the hills and mountains, but to be the light of this world including the valleys and the plains. One of the gospel songs beautifully sings “God on the Mountain is also the God of the valleys” in its literal sense.

Prayer: God of Light, you have enlightened us to be the light of the world. Though the darkness of social evils engulf us, yet as you have set us as the light on a hill, give us the courage to hold our light shine, strengthen us so that we may be the agent of your love and peace in this troubled world. We submit our lives into your hand as we choose your words as a lamp for our path and a light for our feet. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

Dr. Hrangthan Chhungi,

Associate Director,

Church, Public Relations and Resource Mobilisation.

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