The Light of the World
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, NRSV)
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared that we are the light of the world. This metaphor is one of the most straightforward of his teachings on how we are supposed to live in this world. Light is something with which we are all familiar. Light helps us to see so that we can navigate our way through life. Light wins out over darkness in that wherever light goes, darkness automatically diminishes. It can’t work the other way around. Natural light, as in sunlight, provides the necessary environment for plants to grow. Light brings life and then preserves it.
The Sermon on the Mount is found in Matthew chapters five through seven, and it is a summary of the ethical teachings of Jesus. It’s a course in discipleship. So, if Jesus declares that we are the light of the world, he is holding out a standard to which we are to abide. In John’s gospel, Jesus made a similar declaration about himself:
“Again, Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:12, NRSV)
Jesus’ identification as the light of the world, his extension of that description to us, then raises the stakes for those of us who follow Jesus. Not only are we to bring light and life into the world, but we are to do so by doing the same things Jesus did, in the same way Jesus did, and in the same Spirit that Jesus did. That’s a tall order.
A young boy asked his father to describe a Christian. The father did his best to answer his son’s question and felt pretty good about his response because his son seemed satisfied with the answer. About 30 minutes later, the little boy returned to his father and asked, “Have we ever seen a Christian?” Ouch!
If we are the light of the world, our lives will help guide others as we reflect the love of God to others. We will provide direction not by pointing our light in a particular direction, but by actually carrying our light as we walk along with one another being both an example and a guide. We will help create an environment that provides all that others need to grow as followers of Jesus Christ. And we’ll look more and more like Jesus!