One of the more widely used metaphors or euphemisms for God in the written recordings of Jesus’ teachings and of his followers is that of light. Jesus calls himself the “light of the world”. Which is why it’s so meaningful when he says to his followers:
“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.
So Jesus is starting here with a mind-blowing idea. I’m jumping ahead a bit in his story, for anyone reading this blog as a sequence, but the thing about Jesus is that he claims to be God. Which has often led to the mental attitude amongst his followers of “I couldn’t possibly be like Jesus because he was divine”.
But Jesus, who self describes as the “light of the world” says that we, too, are the same.
We can be like him!
The Good News
That’s what I love about this little bit of teaching, and the one immediately preceding it about salt. Yes, it’s a call to be/do something. But it starts with an affirmation that you are simply wonderful and then you can be like Jesus. Jesus isn’t interested in guilt tripping you into behaving like a lot of religious folk might do with their talk of heaven and hell and the like. No, Jesus wants to build you up first.
So, you are the light of the world (too!) but what does that actually mean? Jesus elaborates – you can’t hide a town on a hill with all its lights. You don’t light a lamp then hide it. That would be silly. That would defy the point of the light in the first place. So it is with us – we are called to be a light – to guide and provide a path to follow (the path we ourselves are following).
We are asked to “let your light shine before others”. God has done and continues to do great things through human beings. Let’s not keep those things hidden away.
Many of us, myself included, have a hard time wanting to talk to people about Jesus as the phrase goes. Probably something to do with having really mixed feelings about the group of people, and the ideas, that we then represent1.
But in being light, we shine a way without having to do that. Nobody wants to hear about how great the latest product is before they buy it. They want to see it being used by their friends. So the same is true with all of the many messages that come from Jesus about the Way. Whether it is discovering the richness of seeking justice, whether it’s the richness that comes from peacemaking, or something else – an attractive life attracts people to your way of life.