The lighthouse as long been used as a symbol for the church. It is appropriate to one of the functions of the church. Jesus commanded that we are to be a light to the world. In Matthew 5:14-16 He said, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” A lighthouse’s chief function is to warn approaching ships of the danger they face if they don’t correct their course. The same is true of the church. In preaching the Bible, we alert people to the dangerous areas of colliding with God’s way of doing things. Still, there are ships that ignore the lighthouse’s warning and run aground, or perhaps run aground because the lighthouse near them wasn’t shining its light so it could be seen. When this happens, there has to be a means of rescue. Perhaps the church needs to look into a new symbol of another facet of our calling. We need to be not only a lighthouse, but also a coast guard cutter with search and rescue team.
Paul says that Jesus, “gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age” in Galatians 1. He says it again in Colossians 1, “he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” I am reminded of the old hymn that says, “Rescue the perishing. Care for the dying. Jesus is merciful. Jesus will save.” The lighthouse and the search and rescue cutter work in tandem to support each other, and in the church both functions must be present as well. Some churches are very good at being a lighthouse; proclaiming the truth of God’s immovable standards. Others are good at search and rescue; picking up the broken pieces and the survivors from the wreckage left behind when those standards are ignored. But as God’s people, we need to be good at both. It is the balance of grace and truth(John 1:14) that defined Jesus’ ministry on earth, and as His followers, we will do well to follow His example.