Monday, September 15, 2014

SO shine

There is a quote that is usually ascribed to St. Francis of Assisi - "Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words." 

According to scholars, he never actually said it. However, the sentiment is valid. "Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light to all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven." (Matt. 5:15-16)

These are the words of Jesus, and often they are used to justify the dubious practice of "witnessing." All I will say about this practice is that the word "witness" in the New Testament is always used as a NOUN and never as a VERB. In other words, a PERSON can BE a witness to something that he or she has seen. And all that person does (and only when asked) is describe what he or she saw. 

But other than that, I'm not going there today. Today I am meditating about the actual words Jesus spoke, especially in verse 16 of Matthew 5. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven." 

LET it shine. Don't MAKE it shine. There is nothing that you can do to MAKE your light shine; it will do so, whether it is under that bushel or not!! Putting it under a bushel - as Jesus implied - just defeats the whole purpose of having a lit candle in the first place. (The bushel basket will let in air; the candle will not go out. But why would you bother covering it up?)  The power of the Light is not yours anyway; it is HIS. It is His light inside of you - and without that Light there would be darkness. Can you comprehend how great that darkness would be, were He not within to brighten your life? Think ... think hard ... about how He reached into your darkness and lit your powerless candle with His unquenchable flame. Can you not see the magnitude of that? 

Let YOUR light shine. It will do no good to tell a story you have not experienced. It will do you no good to rest on the laurels of your parents, or your pastor, or your children. God is a personal God; He desires relationship with us one-on-one. If it is not personal, it is not real to you - then you've not "gotten" it. 

Photo "Candle" courtesy of
phanlop88 at
And finally, my key point. Let your light SO shine. 

Two meanings come from this little word "so." The first is "In the same way." Jesus is saying that we need to take off the restraints, the bushels in our lives, and give our faith in Him the place of honour it deserves - on a candlestick. This doesn't mean that we have to get out there and pound the pavement with gospel tracts and such. Far from it!! He's just been talking about being real - LETTING our light shine. Christian catch phrases and holy-isms put the bushel back on ... and the world can't see the real Light inside. It's there, but it's all crudded up and covered over with a bunch of religious talk and (let's admit it) guilt trips and fearmongering. How many people have been turned off by that! No, Jesus was talking about removing the barriers to people seeing the real us - the us that we are with Him, and without all the trappings and hangups. 

If we are happy, let's be happy with Jesus! if we are sad, let's be sad ... with Jesus by our side! If we are afraid, there is no shame in it; let's remember Jesus is with us and trust Him! 

And secondly, there is another meaning to that little word, "so." It also means "SO MUCH." There is nothing that we can do to make the flame bigger in our lives; God is the one who put it there. It in reality is a blazing inferno of His love for us! Might I suggest that part of "letting" our light shine is by being affected by the flame, by being consumed by His love for us. 

If we are living holy lives out of terror that He will be displeased, citing "Be holy, for I am holy," (1 Pet. 1:16) then we have totally missed the point!!  The point is that because He lives within us, because He has loved us and loves us now and into eternity with so great a love that He would give His only Son to make us His treasure (c.f. 1 John 3:1), that love moves us to rejoice in such gratitude that we CAN'T HELP but live that pure life, the candle WILL burn bright and clear. It will happen automatically!  

Using another analogy that Jesus used in John 15, that of the vine and the branches, we don't strain and grunt and groan trying to make fruit happen in our lives (we'll talk about what that fruit is another time). We just enjoy the Vine. We gain our nutrients from Him, let our life revolve around Him. Not in some creepy way that leaves people scratching their heads and saying, "What in the world is that person talking about...?" but in a way that realizes how deeply He loves us and just loves Him back. We won't need to concern ourselves with whether "they" are getting the message. They will get it. And they'll ask us about it. They'll want to know. If it's real, they'll want to know.

Plain and simple - back to the candle analogy - the more we realize how deep His love is for us personally, the more our "SO" will "GROW." We need not worry about overestimating His love and care for us. There is no way that can happen; "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared..." (1 Cor. 2:9). 

He LOVES us. He saves 'to the uttermost' (Heb 7:25). 

That'll fuel your fire. SO shine!

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