No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light (Lk 8:16).
In other words, the Lord lit the light of the Church in order to give light to the world and to be seen. The world is in darkness; the moral darkness of these times is very deep.
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 so that we could hide 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 we’re 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. That 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 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 it. This darkness has happened on our watch. As a Church, we have been too content to hide our light under a basket. That is why the world is dark. If we collectively do our work, then the darkness does not stand a chance. But too many people—clergy and lay—remain 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 about the light:
The CAUSE – Jesus describes himself as the One who lights a lamp. 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 it is through us that He shines. This means sacrifice on our part. It means letting Him use us. It means not always sleeping in when we want to. It means not just sitting at home and saying “Ain’t it awful.” It means getting out there and getting involved. It means 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 the 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. It involves concrete behavior. Jesus talks about deeds. 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 behaving recklessly. 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 material. Our light shines when we love instead of hate, when we seek reconciliation instead of vengeance, and when we pray for our enemies. 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 should 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 or to be praised rather than to glorify God. We must pray that we have good intentions, for it is possible to do the right thing for the wrong reason. The desired result is God’s glory not ours.
Turn on the lights! It’s time to shine or else it’ll be over soon. Are you ready to shine? The Church is not just any light, the Church (by God’s grace) is the only light there is at all. As a member of Christ’s Body the Church, what are you doing to shine?