Christ's light guides our steps
In my last article, I pointed to Jesus' analogy of the people of the kingdom as the salt of the earth, and noted that it is a key to stopping, and even reversing the cultural decay that is evident all around us. But Jesus didn't just stop with that one picture. He immediately segued into an additional, and equally fascinating picture of who we are to be as kingdom people: the light of the world.
Some people might object to this. After all, didn't Jesus say that HE was the light of the world? (John 8:12, 9:5) Unquestionably; and He said it twice in close succession. But, in His most significant address, the speech we now call the Sermon on the Mount, He also clearly told those who were following Him, "You are the light of the world."
So how do we resolve this? It's actually pretty simple, even intuitive.
On the fourth day of creation, God created the sun, the moon and the stars to light up the night sky. (Genesis 1:14-19) The sun was called the greater light, and the moon the lesser light. Many people point out that the moon doesn't actually shine on its own, but merely reflects the light of the sun. And that is true without question. If the sun should ever go out, the moon will no longer reflect its light to the earth — but of course, under those circumstances, no one would be left alive on the earth to gloat about it!
But still, the moon does light up the dark sky, especially in its fuller phases. It can justly be called a lesser light.
In the same way, Jesus is the light of the world in the sense that He is a direct source of spiritual light, and shines that light on all humanity, making it available to all who are willing to receive it.
On the other hand, those who follow Him, the people of the kingdom of God, shine like the moon, with the reflected light of Jesus clearly evident in our lives. His light guides our steps so that we will not stumble (1 John 1:7, 2:10). And His light refracts through us to show others the way of God.
Our world has many dark places in it. Some are places you can go to, but others are the hearts of people, men, women, teens, and children, who have lost hope, who have lost sight of the reality of God's love for all humanity. And just like fact that the salt cannot do its work of preserving if it never leaves the salt shaker, so the light of the world cannot dispel the darkness if the people of the kingdom only shine our light on each other within the confines of our churches and small group meetings, refusing to go to the dark places, or to interact with those whose hearts need the light that we carry in our hearts.
When Jesus ascended to heaven, He left the work of the kingdom in the hands of His kingdom people, both the activity of preserving society from decay, and the activity of shining the light of God's love and life into the dark minds and hearts of people everywhere. And the work goes on. The world today, both abroad and right here in our own nation, our own community, need us to be faithful to the twin identities given to us by Jesus, and enabled by the Holy Spirit. We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world.