The Light of the World
Jesus wanted His followers to influence the world.
“You are the salt of the earth,” He told them. (Matthew 5:13) He then added, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 15:14-16; NKJV)
This theme of light in relationship to God’s people is one that is expounded upon throughout the New Testament. God is, tellingly, the Father of lights. (James 1:17) The Lord’s saints are to walk as “children of light,” (Ephesians 5:8; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:5) receiving and manifesting the light of Christ in themselves. (Ephesians 5:13-14) In reminding Christians of the difference between those in Christ and those in the world, Paul asks, “what relationship does light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14) Christians should remember that they have been called out of darkness and into the light of God. (1 Peter 2:9)
Over and over again, the image of light, shining into darkness, is used to convey the sense of what God wants from His people. They are to be a lamp He has lit, and placed on a stand in order to give light to all. They are to be the shining city of lights set on a hill where all can see it. They are to have a light that cannot be hidden.
This light is to be manifested in the doing of good works (Matthew 5:16), through heeding the word of God (2 Peter 1:19), through living according to the pattern God provides (1 John 1:7; Philippians 2:16), through loving-kindness shown to our brethren (1 John 2:10), through sobriety and being ready for Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:6-10), through patient cheerfulness in the face of trials and labors (Philippians 2:15) and by exposing the unprofitable works of sin and darkness (Ephesians 5:8-13).
Unfortunately, men frequently want to hide the light that God has lit.
Unbelievers have historically sought to suppress the teaching of the truth of the Gospel. In extreme cases, persecution, execution and banishment have all been used to try and keep Christians from shining the light of Christ. Nor should we think that such behavior is a relic of the distant past. Those who take the time to measure such things estimate that more Christians are persecuted for their religion in the modern age than were ever persecuted in the days of those Roman Emperors who gladly burned Christians at the stake and threw them to the lions.
In less extreme cases, Christians are told to be quite about their faith; to stop trying and convert other people. Some countries have even made such attempts to convert non-believers a crime.
While such attempts to quash Christianity are unfortunate, they are not unexpected and they have never been successful. Today, the word of God is available in more languages than ever before, and is more readily accessible than ever. With each passing year it is only more so.
As Christ implied, God did not give light to the world in Christ in order for men to hide it. Men are unable to suppress the light of Christ for long, and always that light will continue to shine through the true followers of Christ.
More unfortunate then, than the world seeking to extinguish the light of Christ is when Christians themselves work to cover up, or hide, that same light in their own lives. The world cannot extinguish the light, but believers can suppress the light God has given them. They can suppress it and hide it by refusing to do good works. Or through living as the rest of the world lives, without distinction. Or through failing to show the love of Christ, and instead acting hateful and crass. Or through constant complaining and grumbling. Or through refusing to share the Gospel message with those around them.
The light of Christ cannot be hidden. If a man let’s Christ shine through Him, there is nothing the world can do to quench that light. It will burn eternally.
But if those who have been given the light work to remove it from their own lives; we have free will. God will let us. We can successfully fail to let the light shine within us. But Christians should ask themselves: if the light of Christ does not shine in their lives, does not the removal of light allow darkness to come back in? And when the darkness returns to the soul, what does it bring with it?