14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16, ESV
Jesus is talking to those of us who claim to know him, trust him, and call him “Lord.” If our faith in Christ is authentic, then – whether or not we’re fully aware of it – God places us as His lights in a world of prevailing spiritual darkness. How is this world in the dark? (Some of what follows used to be true of us as well.)
- Its people are naturally ego-centric and prideful. That’s not to say they don’t care about anyone else, or that they don’t evince humility from time to time. But their concern for others and their disposition toward others usually aligns with their understanding of what will ultimately benefit them.
- Its people construct their own codes of morality or ethics; and if their code partly mirrors that of scripture, they will assert their own righteousness apart from God.
- Some ignore the golden rule – especially toward those with no power or influence. Many others adhere to a strategy of “salvation” or moral vindication via good works.
- Belief in a day of retributive divine judgment is often discredited – or, people simply reject the existence of a personal God to whom each of us is accountable.
- For the agnostic or atheist, life only acquires the significance you give it; since there is neither a caring Creator with ultimate authority nor an afterlife. Thus self-actualization, personal advancement, and self-gratification define their aims in life.
But our Lord contradicted these attitudes, notions and purposes, and the light that God shines through us searches, evaluates, and convicts people’s hearts. Therefore we needn’t make the gospel more offensive than it already is to certain minds. Since we want our lives to imitate that of Christ, let’s avoid insults and arrogance toward non-believers. Only the Holy Spirit can help a person grasp the wisdom of God in the gospel of the Cross (i.e., the death of Jesus for their sins). Then they’ll begin to understand the nature of God and can discern the false assumptions they once held about themselves.
As followers of Christ, we should have a reputation for doing good, helping others out – not so we’ll be noticed, but so the Lord receives honor and becomes more appealing to all who know us. We shine our light to all in the house. “The house” includes each person we encounter, work with or are related to. If these can’t detect some glimmer of Christ’s light in us, then we have no business teaching or judging those in our world until we repair our own “lamp” (our relationship with Christ).
We expect the brightness of the sun to return after periods of cloud and rain. Likewise our lives emit the clear light of God’s Son into places of spiritual darkness.