Acceptable Religion:let Your Light Shine!
Let your light shine (Matthew 5:16)
“Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven”. (N.I.V.) We live in a world that is filled with darkness. The local newspaper or T.V. station will tell you all about it. There you can see the horror of young girls kidnapped from their school in Nigeria, innocent bystanders gunned down in the U.S.A., refugees fleeing from the violence in South Sudan, corruption and murder, and so one could go on and on. The question is what are you and I doing about making this world a better place?
One of my favourite Classic Country and Western songs is "You can't be a beacon if your light don't shine" by Donna Fargo. She makes an important point in this song about making a difference in this world as a Christian and as a person. So often Christians live their lives in the Church but do very little to take the message of God's love into the world.
Most of the people I know are decent, law abiding souls who live in relative peace and goodwill with their neighbours. Many profess to be Christians, or by a process of association, have adopted Christian principles into their lives. While the constitution of most countries is positive and looks to develop a society that cares, it takes more than that to make a real difference in the world.
A couple of events in the last few days have reminded me of the need as a professed Christian to do something to make a difference right here where I am. A young women stopped to help an elderly man who collapsed with a low sugar blood level. She ended up taking him home and buying him and his wife groceries when she saw their poverty and need even for basic food.
Two very poor women in one of the neediest areas in East London run a soup kitchen twice a week from their home. They feed about 100 very poor children and elderly with a cup of soup and a slice of bread. The bread and soup powder is donated by others who care. So for those who queue up for soup and bread, the world becomes a better place this winter as the cold and rain sets in.
The question I have to then ask again is, what am I and what are you doing to make the world a better place? In other words, do we light a candle in our corner so that it can shine into the darkness or do we simply exist for ourselves? It obviously is good to stay out of trouble and not add to the misery of this world by doing bad things. It is good to believe in God and Jesus and go to worship and Bible Study on a regular basis. That, however, is probably the bottom line. What Jesus did was to come into this world to make it a better place and so he drastically challenges out thinking. When he tied the servant’s apron around his waist and washed his disciple’s feet he was graphically and powerfully demonstrating what he said in Matthew 5.
The Matthew 5 statement by Jesus referring to “doing good deeds” places the ball firmly in our court. You cannot simply look after yourself and those close to you and ignore what is happening around you. For God’s purpose to be fulfilled, a light has to be lit in society. The problem that faces us is that the darkness is so bad that we feel rather hopeless because the problems are so serious and big. So we go from week to week and day to day thinking about it and then doing very little if anything at all.
What Jesus is saying, and other New Testament writers agree, is that we have to take the initiative and become a light in our small corner of the world. Only when many take up this challenge will the darkness be challenged. James perhaps says it best when he writes, “pure religion is to take care of the widows and orphans…” (James 1:27) That is not restricting our action to this one action and one group, but simply giving an example from his day where he saw a need,
As you look out around you and see a world crying out for help and you reach out to show compassion and love, the one who claimed to be and is “the light,” is using you to make this world a better place. If you and I don’t do this then darkness will prevail.
The question that we then need to ask and answer is very simple and yet hugely challenging: at the end of today, at the end of this week, will the world be a better place because of what I did to let my light shine?