Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. —Philippians 2:14-16, ESV (emphasis added)
In the Gospel of John, Jesus is called “the true light, which gives light to everyone” (John 1:9). Throughout the New Testament, the followers of Jesus are called to be lights in the darkness. So, what does it mean to shine? It means:
- Being counter-cultural. We live in a dark world, full of lies, hate and confusion. But God’s Word tells us to “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12). While others are chasing after physical pleasures and selfish gain, we’re commanded to live a different way—to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14).
- Putting yourself out there. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others” (Matthew 5:16a). He explained that no one lights a lamp just to hide it under a basket. A lamp is meant to be placed on a stand to give light to everything around it. Whether you’re timid or outgoing, you’re called to be a light to the people around you. That’s only possible if you’re taking time to interact with people and cultivate relationships. Are you the shy type? Here’s some guidance.
- Always pointing back to the light source. When Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others,” that wasn’t the whole sentence. He went on to give the reason why it’s important to shine: “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16b). Our goal should never be to bring recognition to ourselves, but to bring glory to God. There’s a fine line between being a light and putting on a show to get attention. It’s a matter of the heart.
What keeps you from shining?
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? –Matthew 7:3, ESV
It’s easy to see the shine of a new diamond ring from across the room. But over time, that shine can dull as dust collects on it. In the same way, sin can dull our shine as lights for Jesus Christ. Our lives which once sparkled with the joy of Christ can become clouded with a love for things of this world.
Before you can be a light to others, take a look at your own life. Has sin dulled the evidence of Christ in you? Maybe it’s time to stop, take a moment and ask God to reveal any sins you might be ignoring. If there’s a sin you repeatedly struggle with, write it down and pray over it continually. Ask God for His forgiveness and help in changing your heart. We’ll never be perfect, but we need to address our sin—partly because it impacts others.
So how exactly do you shine?
Do not be conformed to this world … —Romans 12:2a, ESV
“Being a light” sounds great, doesn’t it? But it’s also a little abstract. How exactly do you become this brilliant beacon to people around you? Here are 4 practical tips:
- Be careful what you say. The Bible calls the tongue “a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). Yikes! That’s pretty serious. And that’s how we should take our speech—seriously. Maybe a parent once told you, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” It’s not bad advice, even as an adult. Words are powerful and can be used for good or bad. You might even post this verse somewhere as a reminder: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). Read How to Tame the Tongue.
- Consider your entertainment. Where do you go for fun? What shows or movies do you watch? What kind of music do you listen to? Would you go to the same places, watch the same things or listen to the same music if Jesus were sitting next to you? Or would you be embarrassed? It might sound silly, but asking those questions is a good way to keep yourself in check, whether you’re alone or with others.
- Use social media wisely. People are watching what you post, whether they interact with your posts or not. Think about the things you’ve posted recently—articles, comments, photos and so on. Could they be seen as prideful? Self-centered? Rude? What’s your motive? To put others down or make them jealous? Hopefully not. Aim to make informed, respectful posts that represent the One you claim as Lord.
- Think of others. Consider other people’s needs and help meet them. Encourage instead of criticize. Be patient. Give others the benefit of the doubt. If you hear gossip, distance yourself from it or change the subject. When you encounter a difficult person, remember that they were made and are loved by God. Above all, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31).