Part 7: Glowing Christians (Christian But Not series)

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” ( Matt 5:14-16)

Jesus said He is the light of the world, but He also said we are the light of the world. Knowing how much greater He is than the brightest of us, I wondered if He was talking about two different kinds of lights, so I looked it up.  Nope. The original Greek word for ‘light’ is the same in both verses.

Light 
φῶς (phōs)
Noun – Nominative Neuter Singular
Strong’s Greek 5457: Light, a source of light, radiance. From an obsolete phao; luminousness.

Luminous means emitting or reflecting light, startling bright.

Radiance means bright or glowing light

We Christians are glowing! And not just any glow, but a radiant, transparent and flawless glow. Turn to someone and say, “You’re glowing!” Just kidding. I hate it when pastors tell us to do that.  But the truth remains, we are all glowing – or should be glowing – whether we are aware of it or not.

Why do some of us seem to glow brighter than others?

Jesus gives us a hint in Matthew 5:15. He said that hiding a lamp under a bowl defeats the purpose of the lamp, and keeps everyone in the dark. How often do we do just that in our work places, in crowded stores, or when other drivers get in our way? It’s hard to shine when we’re angry or frustrated, or where it would make us conspicuous. I remember a time when my colleagues wanted us all to do something that I considered dishonest. They were all good people, so I was surprised at the animosity I received when I mustered my courage and told them that, based on my belief, I couldn’t participate with them. I found out the hard way that my light was not always welcomed nor tolerated even among friends, and its lasting effect caused me to think twice before allowing my light to peek out from under my bowl again.

Another way a Christian’s glow can be diminished is found in Luke 11:33-37. “No one lights a lamp and puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body…

The same Greek word for ‘lamp’ is used both in Matthew and in Luke. It means an illuminator. Jesus is saying in Luke that our eyes are the illuminators for the light within us. Did He mean our physical eyes? That light should be shooting out of our eyes like the rays in a sci fi alien? Let’s keep reading and also look at the definitions of some of the original Greek words. (Some Bible translations use different words for a few of these. I will note those in parenthesis next to the applicable words.)

“…when your eye is clear, your whole body is also full of light; but when it is bad, your body is also full of darkness. So watch out that the light in you is not darkness. Therefore if your whole body is full of light, without any dark part, it will be wholly illuminated, as when the lamp illuminates you with its light. (NASB)

eye
ὀφθαλμός (ophthalmos)
Noun – Nominative Masculine Singular
Strong’s Greek 3788: The eye; fig: the mind’s eye. From optanomai; the eye; by implication, vision; figuratively, envy.

body.
σώματός (sōmatos)
Noun – Genitive Neuter Singular
Strong’s Greek 4983: Body, flesh; the body of the Church. From sozo; the body, used in a very wide application, literally or figuratively.

clear,  (also healthy, good, single)
ἁπλοῦς (haplous)
Adjective – Nominative Masculine Singular
Strong’s Greek 573: Single, simple, sound, perfect. Probably from a and the base of pleko; properly, folded together, i.e. Single.

full of light.
φωτεινόν (phōteinon)
Adjective – Nominative Neuter Singular
Strong’s Greek 5460: Bright, luminous, full of light. From phos; lustrous, i.e. Transparent or well-illuminated.

poor, (also unhealthy, bad, evil)
πονηρὸς (ponēros)
Adjective – Nominative Masculine Singular
Strong’s Greek 4190: Evil, bad, wicked, malicious, slothful.

[is] full of darkness.
σκοτεινόν (skoteinon)
Adjective – Nominative Neuter Singular
Strong’s Greek 4652: Full of darkness, dark. From skotos; opaque, i.e. benighted.

you
σοὶ (soi)
Personal / Possessive Pronoun – Dative 2nd Person Singular
Strong’s Greek 4771: You. The person pronoun of the second person singular; thou.

darkness.
σκότος (skotos)
Noun – Nominative Neuter Singular
Strong’s Greek 4655: Darkness, either physical or moral. From the base of skia; shadiness, i.e. Obscurity.

radiant, (also fully illuminated, wholly bright, fully light)
φωτεινὸν (phōteinon)
Adjective – Nominative Neuter Singular
Strong’s Greek 5460: Bright, luminous, full of light. From phos; lustrous, i.e. Transparent or well-illuminated.

were shining
ἀστραπῇ (astrapē)
Noun – Dative Feminine Singular
Strong’s Greek 796: A flash of lightning, brightness, luster. From astrapto; lightning; by analogy, glare.

Linda’s interpretation:  our eyes are the filter by which light enters and leaves our body, not in a physically sense but in a moral sense. If we look at life through the lens of goodness and perfection, and if we act in accord with that, doing good whenever we can, then we are filled with the light of Jesus which will also shine like a spotlight on us for the benefit of everyone around us. But if our lens is tainted with evil, then that light is cut off and we are left in darkness along with everyone around us.

God makes it very clear what evil is. Do a search for “evil” and you’ll find numerous lists throughout the Old and New Testaments including Is 5:2-23; Is 59;2-25; Ez 22:1-31; Rom 1:18-32; 1 Cor 6:9-11; Gal 5:16-24. Likewise, search “do good” and you’ll find enough scriptures, such as Isaiah 1:16-18 and Micah 6:8, to keep you reading for some time. Some places, such as Eph 5:1-17, describe both evil and doing good. Jesus gave us some additional ways to do good in His sermon on the mount (Luke 6:27-28). His ways are hard, and don’t make sense to our natural minds, yet that’s what we are called to do, regardless of how painful it might be, if we are to shine brightly.

So in a nutshell, what we do and don’t do controls the amount of light in us and coming from us, and thus impacts what others are able to see.

Why does it matter how bright we glow?

Two reasons. One reason is because we love God, want a relationship with Him, and want to go to heaven when we die. We want to see in the darkness, to have our path lit up. We understand the need for people to live good lives in order to benefit society. The problem is that although most of us Christians (Christian: a person who has anything to do with Christ) want God in our lives, we only want Him on our terms. We want to live with God. We don’t want to live for God. While we’re here on earth, we’d rather live in as much darkness as we can away with and still get to heaven. We don’t think of it in those terms, but that’s what our lives say nonetheless. Sometimes, though, we don’t shine as strongly as we think we do because of deception. We may think we’re living according to the Bible, but our interpretation – or the interpretation of those who taught us – is faulty. Others of us who have become disciples (disciple: a person who is totally committed to Jesus and all He said) work to shine as brightly as we can, willingly paying the price to do so, because that’s what Jesus wanted.

Paul gives us the second reason in 2 Cor 4:6 For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We want to glow brightly to reveal God through Jesus to those who don’t know Him. The problem we run into is stated in 2 Cor 4:4  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers; to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  It’s hard to keep shining brightly though when no one seems to understand, when people don’t want their deeds exposed to the light, or when it’s easier to conform than to stand out.

I discovered something else in these verses. The original Greek listeners/readers probably got it right away, but I missed it because I don’t read Greek. It wasn’t until I looked up the original Greek words and meanings that I made this discovery. In verse 34 “your eye is the lamp to your body”, the Greek word for ‘body’ is singular noun but is used in a very wide application, such as the body of the Church. Yet, the Greek word for ‘you’ is singular personal pronoun. That means how much each of us individually shines – or doesn’t shine – impacts the whole body of believers as a whole. That is definitely true in our country today. As Christians, we have earned ourselves a bad name because of our behavior. Paul had to address a similar issue with the Roman believers in Romans 2:17-24. But if you call yourself a Jew (think Christian) and rely on the law (think Bible) and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth – you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles (think non-Christian) because of you.’

When I look around America today, when I listen to both Christians and non-Christians, I am grieved at how God is blasphemed because of our actions. If what non-Christians see when they watch Christians (and yes, they are watching us) defines how they see God, no wonder they want no part of what we offer. We’re really no different than they are, and in some cases, even worse. If only more Christians would commit to being a disciple (a Christian-But-Not), then unbelievers could see God through clear lenses and be drawn to Him.

One more thing – maybe something a little more fun. Jesus mentioned a lamp because that’s pretty much all they had besides candles. However, we have many devises for light today: flashlight, nightlight, spotlight, lamp, lantern, Christmas lights, laser, glow in the dark light, etc. Each puts out a different amount of light for different purposes. Thinking about your life, which devise best fits you? Are you shining more like a nightlight (only seen in the dark) or a flashlight (pointing your light in only one direction at a time) or a lantern (shining your light everywhere at once)? Do you just glow softly, not really lighting up much of anything, or broadcast your light in intense ways? Is one way better than another? Are there times when different devises are needed? You might see all of these in the Christian body as a whole. Would the same hold true in a group of fully committed disciples?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. It’s been fun thinking about this but I haven’t drawn any conclusions yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s