by Michael Goldsmith
For several weeks I’ve wrestled with one phrase from the words of Jesus found in Matthew 5:16 (NASB): “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” What does it mean to “let your light shine before men in such a way”? As I’ve prayed this through, I have come to the conclusion that in every encounter we have with other people, there is an appropriate amount of light that should shine from our lives as Christians into theirs.
If you put light on a continuum, there is a point where light is too dim and ineffective. On the other end is blinding, glaring, overpowering light. Somewhere in the middle of the scale is an appropriate amount of light. For example, if I entered your darkened bedroom where you were sleeping and shone in your face 10,000 watts of light, it would be too much. It would be offensive. In the same situation, a dimly lit candle of low wattage would be equally ineffective. I contend that an appropriate amount of light exists that is sufficient to wake you up without overpowering and offending.
Jesus encourages us as Christians to wrestle with this issue of shining appropriate amounts of light into others’ lives in such a way that our testimony is validated and our faith in God is appealing. Non-Christians have many blinding encounters with overzealous, 10,000-watt Christians and low-impact encounters with dimly lit, ineffective, 5-watt Christians. The result in both cases is a failure to draw others to Jesus Christ.
I would like to suggest a few guidelines for determining how much light is required in any situation for being an effective representative of Jesus Christ.
First, it begins not with you but with the other person. Jesus’ words are, “Let your light shine before men . . .” I suggest the emphasis is on the other person. A question to ask is, “What amount of light would be too dim or too glaring?” Jesus always began His relational encounters with the other person’s preparedness and adjusted himself to meet that person at his or her point of readiness.
Second, it depends on what the Holy Spirit is leading you to say. God’s Spirit, who knows the hearts of all individuals, is able to lead a discerning, yielded person into an effective conversation with another. However, I strongly urge you to check and recheck yourself before blurting into a tirade of being “Spirit led.” Many zealots, claiming to be Spirit led, have caused many to be offended with the gospel. Genuinely cultivated sensitivity to the Holy Spirit will lead to effective relational opportunities.
Third, the quality of your life speaks louder than the volume of your words. Your life precedes your words and either validates or invalidates them. People want to know that you live what you say, and they want to know that you care. These are essential qualities intertwined with Christian effectiveness.
Fourth, the quality of our life is determined by our personal relationship with God. In late February 2002, scientists declared the moon was positioned to “shine” 10 percent brighter and appear 9 percent larger. This was based on the moon’s position to both the sun and the earth. As believers, if we position ourselves appropriately in our relationship to God and to others, we will increase the brightness and effectiveness of our lives.
When you read the New Testament, you discover Jesus’ appeal to those who were relationally disconnected from Him. They were drawn to Him because He knew how much light each could stand. As believers, there is an appropriate amount of light to shine from our life into others that will appeal to them. As a result, they will see the quality of our Christian life and it will appeal to them.
I hope you will struggle with the issue of how much light should shine from your life into the lives of others.
Michael Goldsmith has pastored congregations in North Little Rock, Conway, Pine Bluff and Siloam Springs, Arkansas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. He now serves with Global University as Director of Advancement for a project in a sensitive country. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org