I’m just average. I’m just me.
And I sometimes wonder if average me can really be a light.
Maybe you wonder the same thing.
How can I be a light? Does it mean I should be regularly sharing my testimony? Does it mean being able to explain the Gospel in 5 steps? Does it mean doing “big things” for God so others will convert?
I think this is often the picture we get in our minds when we think of being a light. And it puts on us a lot of pressure to measure up, be perfect, and do good works so we’ll be good enough Christians.
But while sharing our testimony, spreading the Gospel, and doing good deeds are things we are called to as believers, Scripture gives a different picture than pressure, perfection, and performance when it comes to being a light.
What Light Looks Like
The verses where we get this phrase “shine your light” from (and that are the inspiration for the song), are found in Matthew 5:
You are the light of the world - like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
This passage is from the Sermon on the Mount, teachings Jesus spoke to His disciples about what it means to follow Him and live out the Gospel.
These verses about being a light follow verses known as The Beatitudes:
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
those who mourn,
those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
the pure in heart,
those who are persecuted because of Jesus. (from Matthew 5:3-10)
I don’t think it was an accident that Matthew, as he recorded Jesus’ words, put these teachings in this order.
The beatitudes teach us the attitude we are to have toward God, toward ourselves, and toward others. Really, the beatitudes teach us about being Christ-like, having the same attitude as Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)
Being a light isn’t about bright external appearances, but about humble internal attitudes. It’s about a life, a heart, a character changed by Jesus, becoming more and more who He created us to be, living as a reflection of Him.
Being a Light by Being Christ-Like
Blessed are the poor in spirit…
The phrase “poor in spirit” speaks of recognizing our own spiritual poverty. We cannot be a light if we do not recognize our need for the Light and turn from darkness to Him.
Blessed are those who mourn…
This beatitude speaks of compassion: seeing the brokenness in the world and allowing our hearts to break because of it, because it is what breaks God’s heart. In this compassion, we shine our light by entering into solidarity with others, to bring love and healing.
Blessed are the meek…
The meekness seen in Scripture is a quality of self-control even in emotionally-charged situations. When our emotions get the better of us, they often cause us to say and do things that are un-Christ-like. Being meek shines the light of humility, gentleness, and patience in our emotions.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…
What we desire will direct how we live, because we will chase after whatever we desire. If we hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness, then we will, as Matthew 6:33 instructs, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” Being a light means desiring and chasing after the things of God.
Blessed are the merciful…
Rather than being judgmental, resentful, and bitter, we are called to shine the light of grace, forgiveness, and mercy, as a reflection of the grace, forgiveness, and mercy God has given us.
Blessed are the pure in heart…
“Pure in heart” doesn’t mean perfect. But it does mean listening to the Holy Spirit when He convicts us of sin in our lives. In Ephesians 5:11, we are called to “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness.” Being a light means getting rid of that which tempts or distracts us into darkness.
Blessed are the peacemakers…
We are to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts and guide our interactions with others. (See Colossians 3:15 and Romans 12:18) When we do so, we can bring light into the darkness of worry and confusion, fear and insecurities, conflict and division.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of Jesus…
I’ve never experienced persecution for my faith, and maybe you haven’t either. But we can choose today to be committed and devoted to Jesus even if persecution comes. And we can choose to be committed and devoted to Jesus no matter what hardships, struggles, and heartaches we go through. This devotion is a powerful testimony to the faithfulness of God.
When Jesus said, “You are the light,” He didn’t tell us to go looking for attention for ourselves, but to simply let our light shine before those we meet, in our day to day living, that they may see our good deeds, our beatitudes, our Christ-like character.
And maybe they give us a compliment or a thank you. Maybe they're inspired and impressed by us.
But ultimately, in our good deeds, they see a good God.
In our beatitudes, they see a beautiful Savior.
In our Christ-like character, the see Christ.
In our light, they see the Light, shining to beckon them from darkness into His arms.