In the Gospel yesterday (Tuesday of the 10th week) the Lord describes what a Christian is and what He expects of us. He uses two different metaphors: salt and light. Yesterday’s post considered the metaphor of salt.
Today let’s consider the metaphor of light. The Lord says,
You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.
Much that can be said about salt can also be said about light. You don’t light light. It is the darkness that needs the light. Light is meant to be seen. There are too many undercover Christians, secret agent saints, and hidden holy ones. Jesus didn’t light our light to have it hidden under a basket out of fear or secrecy. He wants the Church to shine; he wants you and me to shine. He wants every Christian to be a light so that it’s like a city on a hill! He wants us to shine so that we can’t be hidden.
If we don’t shine, then the world is dark. This is because we are not just a light, we are (in Christ) the light. If you want to know why the world is in darkness, you don’t need to look very far. We often like to think that things are a mess because the wrong party is in power, or Hollywood is too secular, etc. But if we are the light of the world, then the world is dark because we are not shining the light of Christ. Light scatters darkness; it does not blame the darkness. This darkness has happened on our watch. As a Church we have been too content to hide our light under a basket. This is why the world is dark. If we collectively do our work, the darkness does not stand a chance. But too many—clergy and lay—are fearfully silent while the purveyors of darkness are loud and proud.
To all of this Jesus simply says, “You are the light of the world.”
Let’s look at some details of the light. Jesus goes on to say, Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. Notice four things about this light:
The CAUSE – Notice that little word “let.” We are to yield to Christ, to allow him to shine through us. He is the cause of our light. Let your light shine. There’s an old Gospel song that says, “When you see me trying to do good, trying to live as a Christian should, it’s just Jesus, Jesus in me.”
The COST – The purpose of light is to shine, but there is no shining without burning. Shining costs us something. It may be Christ’s light but He shines through us. This means sacrifice on our part. It means letting him use us. It means not always sleeping when we want to. It means not just sitting at home and saying “Ain’t it awful.” It means getting out and getting involved. It means being “out there” and risking a few things. It means being targeted and visible. It means being identified with someone (Jesus) who is hated by many. And in a world that prefers the darkness to light (cf John 3:19-21) it means being called harsh, out-of-touch, and hateful. There is no shining without burning.
The CONCRETENESS – Letting our light shine is no abstract thing. Jesus speaks of deeds. It involves concrete behavior. Your light shines by the way you live, the choices you make, the behavior you exhibit. The light shines when Christians get married and stay married, stay faithful to their commitments, and are people of their word. Our light shines when we tell the truth instead of lying, live chastely instead of fornicating, and behave courteously and respectfully. It shines when we respect life; it shines when we stop our reckless behavior. Our light shines when we clean up our language, give to the poor, and work for justice. Our light shines when we refuse to view pornographic, violent or degrading materials. Our light shines when we love instead of hate, when we seek reconciliation and pray for our enemies instead of seeking vengeance. Our light shines when we walk uprightly and speak the truth in love, without compromise. That’s when our light shines.
The CONSEQUENCE – God is glorified when our light shines. We do not act or get involved merely to satisfy our own anger or to fight for our own sake. We are light so as to glorify God. It is not about our winning, it is about God shining and being glorified. Too often when we do get involved we merely seek to win an argument rather than to glorify God. We can get involved in order to be praised rather than to have God glorified. We need to pray for good intentions, for it is possible to do the right thing for the wrong reason. The desire result is God’s glory not our glory.
Pass the salt and turn on the lights! It’s time to shine or it’ll be over soon. It’s zero-dark-thirty. Are you ready to shine?