In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “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” (Matt 5:14-16). In John’s Gospel, Jesus proclaims himself to be the Light of the World (John 8:12; 9:5).
What’s going on? How are both Jesus and his followers the light of the world? Jesus is the true light; his followers are called to reflect his light. Jesus is the sun; Christians are the moon. The moon doesn’t generate its own light. It only reflects the light that is generated by the sun. So if you call yourself a Christian, the question becomes–what kind of moon are you?
Jesus said the light should be placed on a lamp stand so that it can give light to everyone in the house. Everything we have is from the true light. The blessings and gifts we receive from him should flow out in service to others. We should strive, therefore, to be a full moon in order to bring light to as many people in a dark world as we possibly can.
Jesus warned that you shouldn’t put the light under a bowl. We can do this in one of two ways.
First, we can separate from the world, like the Essenes in Jesus day. If we do, we might be “holy” but we will never be the change agent Jesus intended. Notice how the Essenes aren’t mentioned even once in the New Testament! Turning away from the world is like being a new moon. You may fully reflect the sun, but it is meaningless in your church walls or prayer closets. New moons do not shine their light toward a world that needs it.
Second, we can hide the light is to strive to be just like the world. We conform completely to our culture for a number of reasons. We might be engaged in the sins around us. We might think conformity is the best way to share the light. Or we may not even realize how much our culture’s values have replaced those of the Kingdom. When the moon moves into the earth’s shadow, it results in a lunar eclipse. The moon no longer reflects the sun because it’s allowed the world to separate it from the source of its light.
Jesus tells his followers to live such good lives that it leads others to glory our Father in heaven.
We are to live lives of virtue. We are to have beautiful deeds that draw people to the Father and the true source of light, his Son. If we never share the true source of our deeds, however, we can become a solar eclipse. We can allow our lives to come between the sun and the world so that they see something beautiful . . . but also something deadly. Staring at a solar eclipse can cause blindness. Not bearing witness to Jesus as the source of your good deeds can create spiritual blindness.
The Mar Thoma are Indian Christians who say their church originated with the Apostle Thomas. I have always liked their motto on their logo. It emphasizes the purpose for our calling to bless others because we have been blessed. The Gospel is not just about personal salvation. It has social and cosmic dynamics. The reason we are “lighted” is so that we can “lighten” others. This should be the purpose statement of all Christians. We need to be a full moon to a dark world until that world turns to the full day of the Son of God.