Jesus told his disciples, “You are the light of the world.” (Matt. 5:14) As believers, we try to take that task seriously. Christians should provide illumination and dispel the darkness of the world. In the previous verse, Matthew 5:13, Jesus likens his followers to salt – “the salt of the earth.” Salt has gotten a bad reputation in the last several years because overuse can lead to health problems. But in the ancient world, salt was essential for preserving food and bringing out its flavor. So we, as Christians, are charged with preserving the world and making life palatable. These two concepts, “salt and light,” have become very popular with Christians in recent years – we are always being encouraged to be salt and light in the world. So lately I’ve been thinking about what that means, especially concerning the idea of light, and here are some of my tentative conclusions.
In Matthew 5:15, Jesus uses the metaphor of a lamp: “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.” While I would never presume to contradict the Savior’s choice of metaphor, I think another analogy might also be useful. If we tend to think of ourselves as lamps, we might begin to view ourselves as the source of light. We might start to wonder, “Am I creating enough light here? What can I do to shed light in this situation?”
So I think another helpful metaphor might be found in the moon. We know that the moon is not a source of light itself. It shines only because it reflects. The moon is useful at night because the world is enveloped in darkness; while the moon’s glow is dim, it’s better than nothing. However, it certainly could not replace the sun. The sun is the source of power, radiation, warmth, and life. The moon is not really the source of anything, other than the slight gravitational pull that creates the tides. I think this is how we should view ourselves and our relationship to our Creator. He is the source of everything, including the sun. He gives us our power, our life. All we can do is reflect him to the world in darkness.
And here’s the most important point of this metaphor: we can only shed a powerful light when there’s nothing between us and God. When the moon is full, it shines brightly and lights up the earth. The light is incomplete – colors are lost, and details may not be clear. But the light is sufficient to guide the way through the darkness until the world returns to the sun. But when the moon is “new,” no light issues forth at all. The world is dark; travelers lose their way. Why? Because the earth stands between the moon and the sun, blocking the source of light, blocking the moon’s ability to reflect. How often have I let the world come between me and God, so that I don’t reflect him at all?
Yes, I realize this analogy is flawed. The moon doesn’t choose its position in the sky relative to the sun and the earth. The moon can’t be held responsible for being “new” anymore than it can be celebrated for being full. But we can choose our position in relation to the Son, the source of our light. We can let the world get in the way; in fact, we can hide behind the world. Or, like the half moon or crescent moon, we can let our light be diminished because the world is blocking our full access to the source of light.
In this scenario, we are living in the night. Until the dawn arrives and Christ returns, the world depends upon us to reflect his light into the darkness. Clouds of sin, confusion, and distraction may block or diffuse the light we reflect. If the light is to penetrate the clouds and illuminate the night, we must position ourselves to be fully reflecting the source of light by clearing away any obstacles that remain between us and God.
I’m not sure I know how to do this. I’m not sure I know how to move away from the world that distracts me, that blocks me from the source. But I want to try. I suspect that I need to stop scooting around from spot to spot and allow God himself to place me in the position that will allow me to be the reflector he created me to be.