You are the light of the world.
You probably heard that one before. Jesus talks a lot about bearing fruit (yesterday's post), but He also talks a good deal about darkness and light. And I was listening to a preacher this week - I think that's where I heard it - who asked what kind of light you are. I was unimpressed with his options.
I forget which exact two he used; I only remember for sure one. But he asked something about whether you were the guiding light of Jesus, showing the way for people to go, or the headlight of Jesus, illuminating the place directly in front, the next step of the path. Then he moved on, and I was left wondering if those were really the only options.
Because there are really so many lights in the world. There is a light like the sun, which illuminates by day. A light like the moon, which shines by night. A light like a lightning bolt, which breaks through the storm. A light of a headlight, sure. And a guiding light. What about a lighthouse, which signals safety on a distant shore? It didn't take long before I reached absurdity in this line of thought, and then, I was laughing because I started thinking about this whole doctrine of light and I realized that for most of us, it feels like we're taught to be a blinding light.
Like we're taught that our lives are supposed to shine so bright that people can't see anything but what we're trying to show them. And I thought maybe this is one of the problems we have as evangelists, as member-ministers in our churches.
First, because a blinding light is too powerful and by instinct, turns a man away. Think about it. Every once in awhile, your eye catches something so bright that with a flinch, you turn away. You don't think about whether you should turn away or not. You don't think about what the light is trying to show you. You just turn and know better than to look back. So living as a blinding light for Jesus is dangerous; it is more likely to turn people away.
Second, most of us who live as a blinding light "for Jesus" are actually better at shining the light on our lives. Then people see the life we're living, but we've lost the Lord. They don't ask and we don't tell them and the light becomes more about us than about Him. This breeds envy and jealousy and resentment and scrutiny and all kinds of things that are not holy, which also defeats the purpose.
So I don't think that's it. I don't think, despite our doctrine, that we were ever meant to be a blinding light for Jesus. Nor do I believe that it's so simple as darkness and light. Like I said, there are many kinds of light. I think we were each meant to be a different one.
Some of us are the light of the sun, illuminating everything so that a man can see the big picture. Some of us are the light of the moon, bright spot in a dark moment for a man who has maybe lost all hope. Some of us are the light of the lightning bolt, striking through the storm with the truth of His Word. Some of us are the light of a lightning bug, a bit whimsical but profound all the same. Some of us are a lighthouse, a refuge from an expansive sea. Some of us are headlights, of course, and some, guiding lights. Some of us are stoplights, and I have had a few of those in my life for whom I am thankful. People who are willing to stand in front of you and stop you from defeating yourself. Some of us are porch lights, an intimate welcome home.
There's a commercial on television right now, and I couldn't tell you what it's for. But it says that the human eye can perceive the light of a single candle from more than a mile away. More than a mile away! And here we are thinking we have to be a blinding light to be seen....
A man in darkness will see the smallest bit of Jesus that we can show him. The eye of the heart is that powerful. All we have to be willing to do is shine wherever we are, and anyone close enough to see that light will catch it.
Jesus says something else about light. He asks whether a man lights a light and hides it under a basket. Many translations say a lamp. Does a man light a lamp and put it under a basket? No. He lights it and lets it shine. And I like to think of a lamp as home. It's the place where you are. When the sun sets and you're still winding down, while you're settling in and preparing for respite, when you're comfortable in your own little place, you light a lamp. Don't you?
That's what Jesus is saying. Live your life full of His light, illuminate Him right where you are, and let others see it. It's not up to you to set candles aflame in other people's lives. You are a light in your own little place, and I am a light in my own little place, and together, we light the world to see Jesus.
Pray about the light in your life. Pray about your smallest flame. What kind of light are you meant to be?