Together you are light
You are the light of the world.”
These words urge us, no more than that, command us to be light, the light of Christ, and let it shine through us into the world and the people around us. Jesus is saying - you have the love of God, you have hope and faith in Christ, let others see it in your mercy and compassion, justice and courage and forgiveness. You have the light of Christ within you, let that light shine through in everything you say and do. Very bluntly Paul says to the Ephesians, “You are full of light from the Lord, and your behaviour should show it!” (Eph 5:8).
You are the light of the world. That’s a mega tough call. I could easily spend the rest of this post sandpapering your consciences until you hurt and verbally beat you about the ears for being slack Christians. You and I alike are aware how hard it is to truly be light – to let Jesus affect every aspect of our lives. It’s so easy to give into the darkness and allow sin to control us, even amongst our fellow Christians. It’s much easier to be difficult and hard to get on with, to be selfish and rude, and to give the excuse, “That’s just the way I am”.
But the real truth is, that’s not who you are – your sin has died with Christ and you have been raised to a new life that is clothed with compassion, kindness, gentleness, forgiveness and tolerance (Colossians 3:12-17). In and with Christ, you are the light of the world.
Let’s take a closer look at what Jesus is saying to us and our circumstances today.
He says, “You are the light of the world”. There is an emphasis on the word ‘you’. Jesus would have spoken this “you” with a bit more force, perhaps a little louder than the rest of the sentence. “You are the light of the world”.
When Jesus says “you”, he doesn’t mean one individual but means the whole lot of you. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “You mob, yes all of you, no one is excluded – it doesn’t matter what background you have, where you are from and what age you are – you and you and you – you are the light of the world. You, the people of this church, are the light of this city and its surrounding areas and light to the world.”
Then Jesus says, “You are”. You are – you are, in the here and now, at this very moment, the light of the world. You’ve had a wonderful history and done many great things in your communities in the past, you have much for which to praise God – the people and events that are now part of the history of you and the people who have been here in the past and those still here and have ministered faithfully have been an important part of being the light of Christ in the world. You have been an important part of your local community but there is more to come.
Today Jesus is saying to you again, “You are the light of the world” right now in the present and with the present comes the future. It’s not a matter of can we, should we, or will we. Nor is it a matter of let’s give it a try. Jesus doesn’t say, “Give it a go being light of the world.” It’s not a matter of waiting until the right time – “Let’s wait until the time is right, or wait until we have enough money, or improve our worship centre or whatever we might be expecting in the future”. The time is now. Right now you are light of the world in your communities and being light now leads you into the future.
Next, it’s good to note that Jesus doesn’t say you are the lights (plural) of the world, rather he says all of you are the light – a single beam of light. You are the light (singular) to the world. Without a doubt, Jesus is also saying that each person individually is the light of the world, but he is emphasising even more strongly that all of you together become one powerful beam of light.
It’s a bit like the LED light that people use when they go camping. It has about 50 tiny LED lights that give one bright light to fill the whole tent. If there was only one LED light giving off light it works but in its own small way but the whole 50 shining together as one strong beam of light make a powerful difference.
To put this into our present situation Jesus is saying that it’s important that we as individuals are the light of the world. Whenever and wherever we can on a personal level we meet the needs and hurts of the people in our lives. One light does make a difference. But when Jesus says, “You are the light of the world” he especially includes the idea of being light together. Together the people of this church, every single LED light, no matter who you are, what age you are, the skills you have – together -- you become a shining beacon of light. This beacon of light shines the gospel of Jesus’ love into the community and makes a difference in people’s lives. Light always chases away the darkness. That is your calling – to do as you have in the past and perhaps even do it better – bring light into the darkness of this community.
“You are the light of the world. … Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven”. Jesus is urging all of you together to be a beacon of light, beaming out compassion, kindness, understanding and patience. You are urged to be Christ-like in your gentleness and tolerance of those who annoy you, Christ-like in your readiness to forgive those who hurt you, Christ-like in your friendliness and the warmth to the stranger. Christ-like in your willingness to work together and support one another.
The challenge that always rests in front of any group of people is this: How can we maintain the togetherness that we have in Christ and work in peace and harmony? This was a constant problem in the early New Testament church and unfortunately has been ever since.
In his Letter to the Ephesians Paul addresses this issue stressing that though they are individuals they are one – they are the one beacon of light shining into the world. He says and note how many times he uses the word “one” to get across his point, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; there is one God and Father of all people, who is Lord of all, works through all, and is in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
It follows that if for some reason there is division and the oneness, we share in Christ is somehow shaken, every effort needs to be taken to rebuild what has been shattered.
Understanding, listening, reconciliation, forgiveness, compromise, compassion and love are key qualities that need to be fostered to enable the unity we have in Christ to grow, to give us vision for the future and work together to seek what is good and pleasing according to God’s will for his church in the community.
It's in the oneness that you share in Christ that Jesus now commands you to be a beacon of light to the world together. Whenever a decision needs to be made, or an action taken, the unity that you have in Christ should always be your guide. You should always look at what is best for each other and for the mission God has given you. Be guided by the Holy Spirit and not any selfish individualistic ideas that “my way is the only way”.
A choir conductor once gave this advice to the group of singers she was leading. “If you can't hear the voices beside you - you're singing too loudly.” In other words, your voice isn’t the only one in the choir. A choir is a group of voices singing together, working together, all have their parts to make beautiful music.
Let’s face it. We have been given a wonderful privilege. I agree it’s not without difficulties, uncertainties, problems and all kinds of roadblocks, but the privilege I'm talking about is that of being the light of Christ in your community.
If you’re asking yourself right now how can we continue to be the church in our communities and be a beacon of light given our present situation, be mindful of this – remember who is the source of the light and will keep on shining brightly even when you begin to fade.
Jesus is your source of light. Immediately we ask the question, “How can I be the light of the world?” we run slap bang into the grace of God, the love of Jesus, his forgiveness, his promises to uphold us and give us boldness. Jesus in our hearts, minds and souls is the “one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone” (John 1:9). He is the one who said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will have the light of life and will never walk in darkness” (John 8:12).
It’s not your light but his light. The light and love of Jesus in your hearts flow through your words and deeds and you become a light to the world. When people see these Christ-like qualities in you they will begin to see Jesus and his love in the middle of the despair, hopelessness, grief and unkindness of our world.
“You are the light of the world”. These are not my words; they are the words of a person who knows your hearts and he calls you together and as individuals to be his light to the world. Please do not fall into the temptation of limiting the power of God. It is God’s light that counts, not your failings or that of anyone else. Christ is always greater than the darkness. Let the light shine through.
By the generous grace of God, you are the light of the world.
Light of the World – Amy-Jill Levine
Heaven Bound – Selwyn Hughes
Vince Gerhardy Blog
The Bible in the light of our Redemption – E.W. Kenyon
Mere Christianity – C. S. Lewis
Encounters with Jesus – Timothy Keller
The one true Light – Tim Chester