“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.
– Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV)
I’ve blogged over the past few weeks on the way we grow, using the analogy of plants that grow towards the light. This post, however, spins that on its head. This post is about how we ourselves are called to be the light of the world and help others to grow. The point of reference is the same, but as followers of Christ growing in Him we have a responsibility to be the light that shows him to others.
One thing that I find a real challenge is the idea of “being Jesus to my world”. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m meant to be. I understand that people in my world may not get a chance to see Jesus first hand without first seeing Him in me. Yes. that makes perfect sense. What doesn’t make perfect sense is the fact that some days I struggle enough just to be Pete to the people in my world. How on earth am I supposed to be Jesus? I make a mental list of his attributes and then glance over my own. He is compassionate, loving, kind, brave, intelligent, wise, selfless, patient, generous – oh, yeah, and also the literal Son of God. I’m conscious, some of the time, and have occasional moments where I attain the dizzy heights of the average. See the disparity? How do I bridge that gap?
I had a moment of clarity on this when I read about the light threshold. You see, to start growing towards the light a plant doesn’t need to be in full sunlight, just to have enough light to activate the auxin in the plant’s cells. There is a light threshold and it’s when exposed to that amount of light that the plant starts to grow towards it. There is an experiment you can do where you place a phototrophic plant in a box with a small hole on one side, if the hole exceeds the plant’s light threshold it will grow towards it. A plant in a dark box can grow towards the light let in by a small hole. We in ourselves don’t have all of those attributes that Christ has but we don’t need to be perfect to point someone to Jesus. We just need to show that in our imperfection we have something else that sets us apart and shows strength through our weakness. That can be enough to trigger someone’s spiritual light threshold and start them on their way towards an encounter with Him.
If we’re trying to show all of this stuff through our own strength then you know what? We’re setting ourselves up for a fail. It’s our very weakness and incapability to be Jesus that allows his strength to come through. We just need to place our reliance on Him and let His light show through us. Yeah, we’re not perfect but what we need to do is show enough of Jesus to trigger something in them that sets them growing towards the real thing. I can’t be the fullness of Jesus’ perfection, if I could then what would I need Him for? What I can be is the best likeness I can manage and He will make up the shortfall. That’s what is needed. God knows I’m not perfect, my friends know I’m not perfect, so all they need to see is that despite my flaws Jesus is displayed through me to show them that there is a difference. In fact, this brings us to something that Paul said when struggling with things within his own life and unable to understand why the problem still existed:
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV)
The people in our worlds are aware of our weak points and flaws but when they see that something in us gets past those and shows strength in spite of those, that’s when they see Jesus. When they see that even though we might be on a short fuse we’re managing to stay patient, then what they’re seeing is a bit of Jesus. When they see that even though we may be flat out of strength and running on empty there is still strength there, they’re seeing a bit of Jesus. When they see us reaching out with compassion to someone no matter how society feels about that person, they’re seeing a bit of Jesus. When they see that we are not conformed to this world but are dedicated to a better more loving way, they are seeing a bit of Jesus. We may not be able to be the full on Jesus experience and heal them while multiplying loaves of hovis in the kitchen and outwitting haters with great wisdom, but what we can do is show through our lives that we have experienced Him first hand.
When I think of the light threshold I remember Paul saying in his letter to the Corinthian church, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” Only God is going to transform the lives of people, only by personal experience with Him are people going to be saved, but by being Jesus to them to the extent that we can, we can be the ones who point the way for them. We can show them Jesus through our actions and our compassion and sow into them something that will set them growing in God themselves. We’re not expected to be the whole package, that would impossible, what we need to do is live our lives in a way that lets the light shine through us and then in-spite of our imperfections people will see Him.