The Light of the World


“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14 NIV)

I think about this passage often. I think about what a “city on a hill” might look like to those in the valley gazing up at that hill. I think about what it means to be the light of the world to a lost and hurting humanity.

If you had asked me six or seven years ago, I would’ve told you that shining the light of Christ meant reading my Bible everyday, praying with my kids at mealtimes, going to church every Sunday and serving in some way. It was a checklist of “dos and don’ts” I followed at all costs. You know, standing up for my convictions? Add in a Facebook status with a snippet from Sunday’s sermon, and I was really on track. In a nutshell, it was like a litmus test for myself, so people could know I was a Christian. But that was the extent of it.

As I started reading the Word more, I began to realize that this wasn’t the message for which Christ gave His life. He brought us a message of hope, of righteousness through Him alone, one of peace and grace. He died to set us free from the bondage of sin; sin that included legalism and self-righteousness and a judgmental spirit. The light I was shining wasn’t covered in Grace and Truth. It wasn’t sincere or kind or peace-making. It was so much about me.

Today when I think about “the light of the world”, I think about Jesus who came to love, serve, heal, speak life, forgive. He came to take care of real needs. I believe it comes down to showing mercy: to our next-door neighbor and the girl at church who annoys us and the man on the corner asking for food and the tired mother with four lively children in the grocery store. It’s in our daily interactions that His light shines brightest through us.

People want to know they’re not the only human soul in a crowded room. People want to be seen. They want to be understood. Even if we can’t pay the young mother’s grocery bill, we can comment on her lovely hair or her children’s contagious smiles, or say “you’re doing a great job.” She doesn’t need to know about our conviction to eliminate cable television. She needs the light of the world to shine into her weary heart, to genuinely see her, to make a difference in her day.

I used to believe that my Christian life was defined by all the things I’d resolved not to do. Once I began actively and earnestly seeking Christ, I discovered His heart for people. I realized I had it backwards. It’s okay to abstain from certain things, but He is most glorified when I’m loving other people. It becomes so much less about me, and so much more about them. 

People are hurting. People are in great need.

People need action, and they need us to do God’s work.

Let’s compliment the clerk at the checkout. Let’s smile and engage and extend ourselves to those around us. Let someone take that parking space at the crowded mall. Offer up the last Snow White doll on the shelf that we’ve searched high and low to find. Help the woman load her car with items that might be too heavy for her to lift. Let’s give of ourselves, even though it costs us something. And it doesn’t have to cost money; it may be time or convenience or effort, but all of it gives off the fragrance of Christ during a season that we claim is all about Him. Let’s really mean it.

Because friends: they will know us by our love (John 13:35 NIV), plain and simple.


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