Christianity is not a ‘private’ religion. Jesus never intended faith in Him to be a purely private and personal matter. “You are the light of the world.” (verse 14) Just as the lights of a city on a hilltop are visible for miles around, so a genuine commitment to Jesus makes an obvious difference to our lives – something that outsiders should notice.
The light source (Psalm 27:1)
In John’s gospel, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12) In the same way that the moon gives us light in the sun’s ‘absence’ by reflecting the sun’s light, so we can be ‘the light of the world’ only by reflecting the light of Christ (II Corinthians 3:18). A mirror has to be held at the correct angle in order to reflect the image; similarly, our relationship with God must be right if we are to reflect His glory to others. Are you a ‘full moon’, a ‘gibbous moon’, a mere ‘crescent’ – or maybe a ‘new moon’ (at best invisible, at worst standing in the way of Christ’s light rather than reflecting it on)?
The lampstand (Revelation 1:12-20)
In the Tabernacle, a seven-branched lampstand (whose lamps were to be kept burning continually) represented the Holy Spirit (Revelation 4:5). But earlier on in his vision, John had seen other lampstands – representing the churches (Revelation 1:20). It is the Spirit in us who ‘keeps the lamps lit’ (Zechariah 4). We cannot do God’s work unless we are empowered by His Spirit – and we are told (Ephesians 5:18) to be filled with the Spirit continually.
The temptation to hide (verse 15)
What is the point of a light where no-one can see it? (And in the 1st century, when light was provided only by candles and oil lamps, a covered lamp would very quickly go out!) The gospel is not for our benefit alone; it is to be shared with others. Our knowledge is to be passed on, our assets are to be shared, and the love that God has shown to us is to be demonstrated to others in the form of practical good deeds. If we don’t ‘work out’ our faith in this way, it may eventually wither and die.
In practice, of course, this can sometimes be very difficult. Our natural instinct is to hide ourselves from the (often hostile) gaze of the world: to minimise our differences, to ‘camouflage’ ourselves by living no differently from unbelievers. But if we do this, we are not fulfilling our calling as disciples.
Let your light shine… (I Peter 2:12)
“You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light…” (Ephesians 5:8) What does our ‘light’ consist of? Our ‘good works’ (Matthew 5:16) – the things that we say and do. As we follow Jesus in our daily lives, modelling ourselves upon Him, we testify to His transforming power. We should not be afraid to demonstrate our faith in action, as long as we are doing it not to gain credit for ourselves but to glorify the God who makes such a lifestyle possible. For it is only by His grace that we are what we are.