“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
It seems strange how God has chosen to operate in the world. In his wisdom, he has decided to work in the world through people. The reason that seems strange is the fact that humanity doesn’t have an excellent track record of following God’s way. This text gives us another example of this peculiar reality. Jesus tells his followers that they are the light of the world. In other words, God has decided to illuminate the world through the lives of his followers. We could spend time questioning God’s choice to operate this way, or we can step into this calling.
How are disciples of Jesus the light of the world? To answer that question, we need not go far. This passage is found in Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. This sermon is his magnum opus on what his Kingdom is and should be. Rather than pursuing that concept here, today’s text draws less attention to how we are to shine than the focus of Jesus’ words on the location and visibility of our light.
He teaches us that we are lights, elevated on a hill where the light can be seen by everyone around. That isn’t a challenge to become as visible as possible; it is the reality of being a Jesus follower. People observe the lives of those who claim the name of Jesus. We are “observed people” for better or for worse.
Jesus leaves us with a final command, “to shine in a way that brings glory to God”. We are merely illuminators of another object, namely God. We are reflectors or diffusers of light upon the “way of God”. The question we can ask ourselves today is, “do people even know that I am a follower of Jesus?” This is the only prerequisite to the realities in this text. Don’t be “darkness”, with this light hidden under a basket – be visible.