On Sunday the church gathers. Christians hold their lights up. We talk about the light. We educate our children about the light. We hold instructional seminars about how to light the world more effectively. We vow to proclaim the light to the world. On Monday through Saturday, the church scatters—into the marketplace, schools, homes and community—to carry the light. As Jesus’ followers and God’s ambassadors, we bear His light.
Jesus’ strategy always involved believers being light in the world, to penetrate the world’s darkness with His message of life, hope and forgiveness.
We have a responsibility to radiate Christ’s light.
Jesus didn’t say: “You may be the light of the world,” or, “If you want to be the light of the world,” or, “When you feel you have become fully trained, equipped and educated in all the fine points of lightmanship, then be the light.”
Jesus wants His followers to radiate His light to those around them. Light naturally radiates and dispels darkness. It has no choice. We can’t turn a light on and tell it not to dispel darkness. The very nature of light is such that it must shatter the darkness around it. In the same way, true Christians should by their very nature radiate God’s life and light to people around them.
Robert Louis Stevenson, best known for his adventure story Treasure Island, was in poor health during much of his childhood and youth. One night, his nurse found him with his nose pressed against the frosty pane of his bedroom window. “Child, come away from there. You’ll catch you death of cold,” she fussed.
Young Robert wouldn’t budge. He sat, mesmerized, as he watched an old lamplighter slowly working his way through the black night, lighting each street lamp along his route. Pointing, Robert exclaimed, “See; look there; there’s a man poking holes in the darkness.”
Believers’ responsibility is to poke holes in the spiritual darkness of the sin-filled world.
We can’t refuse to shine.
Jesus anticipated some believers choosing to limit their candlepower, to refuse to shine their lights. They would feel safer, securely hidden, under a bowl (or in a stained-glass sanctuary), where they could bask in their anonymity and escape the accountability associated with going public with their faith. He anticipated this and forbade it. “Let your light shine!” He commanded. He does not leave believers the option of letting their world remain in undisturbed blackness.
Jesus said, “A city on a hill cannot be hidden” (v. 14). The smallest of lights chases the darkness away. For instance, in complete darkness, the flicker of a match can be seen from 20 miles.
Christians may be a minority. We may seem small and insignificant, yet we can and should have a powerful influence on our world.
We must spread Christ’s influence.
Jesus made it obvious that He wants believers to spread His influence to every corner of this dark, fallen world. It’s not enough that believers simply take their lights out of hiding. He wants us to put our lights on a lampstand where everyone can see them! God wants the light of His love to be held high so it can permeate every bit of darkness.
We can’t have influence without penetration.
Light, once shining in the church, but extinguished before entering the world has no impact.
Consider Jesus—He was the light of the world. When Jesus entered our world, He didn’t box Himself inside the synagogue’s four walls. He walked into sinners’ lives, touched the lepers, associated with prostitutes, dined with heathen, and scandalized the religious community by penetrating the world.
In order for Jesus to reach and rescue the world, He had to penetrate it. Likewise, for us to impact and influence the world for Christ, we must penetrate it. John Stott said, “We are to go as He went, to penetrate human society, to mix with unbelievers and fraternize with sinners. Does not one of the church’s greatest failures lie here? We have disengaged too much. We have become a withdrawn community. We have become aloof instead of alongside.”
Jesus said: “You are the light of the world.” The question remains: Will you let your light shine?