Light and Influence
Jesus’ desire for His disciples is for them to be examples in a world that is lost and in the dark. He said it in this familiar way: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:14-16).
As lights, we are a direct reflection of the One who is The Light of the World. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Jesus left us the supreme example of what it is to be lights when we have the light of life.
Being lights in the world carries responsibilities. By no means are we claiming perfection (we are not The Light), but we, at least, must be striving to “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27). We cannot claim to be lights in the world if our walk is continually in darkness:
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7).
Cleansing is found in the light, not in the dark. As those walking in the light, we will be looking continually to The Light for healing, forgiveness, and as our example to teach us how we ought to be living. In turn, we become lights and examples to the world, and this is a vital part of who we are as His people.
Consequently, Christians ought to be aware of the impact on they have on others when they say what they say, do what they do, and post what they post in any online presence. If we project a constant barrage of negative posts and complaints, we might begin to wonder if we are actually setting our minds on things above and thinking about those things that are noble, true, excellent, and worthy of praise (Col 3:1-2; Phil 4:8). It impacts our own mindset and shows what kind of light we are showing to others. For example, the more we complain, the more addicted to complaining we become, and we make ourselves, and others, miserable. This is not how we have learned Christ.
The world will be the world. While we need to oppose sin and expose evil (Eph 5:11), we also need to be careful that we are not leaving the impression that Christianity is all about anger and bitter wrangling rather than redemption and reconciliation. Sometimes we need to take a step back and reevaluate our own conceptions. Balance is always in order. If we drive people away from Christ based on our attitudes and actions, then we have failed the message of the cross (see Col 4:2-6).
If we are lights in a dark world, then we need to “do all things without grumbling or disputing,” a phrase directly connected to being “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil 2:14-16). Holding fast the word of life is not accomplished by grumbling and fussing about everything.
What people think about Christ will be positively or negatively affected by the attitudes we project toward both one another and the world (see John 13:34-35; 17:20-21). If we are continually dwelling on things that are not worthy of praise, how shall we find proper ways to praise God Himself or encourage others in what is right? How can we convince anyone that the message of the cross has the power to transform? How can we truly be lights in the world when our minds are fixated on the darkness?
This is not about telling people what we believe or calling sin what it is. Of course we must stand for what is right and speak the truth in love. What we are talking about is the fact that the world presents a continual barrage of negative news and problems that can affect us in ways that lends to constant complaining, especially if we feel we have been unfairly treated. However, to be lights, we must instead show that we are dwelling on what is noble, good, right, and worthy of praise. This is about mindset, and being lights in the world so that we are influencing others properly will begin in the mind.