(Matthew 5: 14-15, NLT) 14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
I love the imagery of light in darkness. It brings fanciful, beautiful things to mind. Like fireflies and streetlights in the summer. Like the skyline of a city, or the runway lights of an airport as you look down from above. Stars…a full moon…lamps in warm houses…campfires and flashlights in the fall…candles on a stormy night. Like Christmas lights twinkling in a silent living room, or lighting up entire streets with the excitement and joy they represent.
The thing about light is this: most every living thing is drawn to the warmth and glow of it. The very essence of light is that it is not dark. Light stimulates life and growth; it fosters warmth and joy. When people are happy, we say that their faces and eyes light up. When someone has an idea, we picture a light bulb over his or her head. Why? Because light is the absence of darkness. Darkness is sadness and fear…ignorance and hurt. It is the unknown that we dread, and the sin that we work so hard to avoid. It is the cold, pressurized ocean floor. Darkness is contrary to the encouragement and creation of life. It is the absence of light.
This theme of light vs. darkness goes back to the beginning of this world…to creation…and it is woven throughout every phase of our history and the tapestry of God’s word.
1 Thessalonians 5:5 says, “For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.” We know that we are created and born as the earthly representation of God Himself, His children. If we are children of the light, then we know that God is light. 1 John 4:8 tells us that, “God is love.” So the equation is actually pretty simple when you think about it: Light + Love = God.
Which brings me back around to my point. If we are the light of the world, then ultimately what Jesus is saying is that we are God in the world! In Acts 26: 17-18 , Paul shares his account of the day that his life was forever changed by a divine encounter with Christ, and with it, we see not only Paul’s directive but ultimately our own mission. Jesus said, “ I’m sending you off to open the eyes of the outsiders so they can see the difference between dark and light, and choose light, see the difference between Satan and God, and choose God. I’m sending you off to present my offer of sins forgiven, and a place in the family, inviting them into the company of those who begin real living by believing in me.” (The Message)
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.” Within each of us is this light, a profound part of who we are from the moment of conception. God in us…revealed in us. And with that little light comes great responsibility…to let it shine. Yet, just one light alone can seem remarkably futile and ineffective. One candle when your power is out? One lamp in a dark room? One streetlight for an entire neighborhood? And we all know that a strand of Christmas lights doesn’t work with just one bulb. One lone firefly doesn’t blink when he has no companions with which to communicate. One light on an airport runway? Nope. Lights come in strands and networks. Stars form constellations and galaxies. Embers and sparks ignite wildfires. Fireflies respond to one another and illuminate entire fields.
We are a city on a hill, not a house. If we are the light of the world, then we must shine brightly…like a network of stars…like a spreading fire that can’t be put out. We must pierce every bit of darkness…with love…with our actions…by how we treat and speak to others…by how much we are willing to sacrifice and give to make God and His love known to all whose lives we touch. Together we are a city, a skyline in the night that cannot be hidden.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1: 5, ESV)
Prayer: God Almighty, You are the Father of the heavenly lights…the Creator of all. You are love and all that is pure in us. Help us, in these days of division and strife, to work together, cutting through the darkness of this world. May we never, ever hide Your light. Amen.