Those who follow Jesus Christ want to be a light as He says we should be (Matthew 5:13-16). Unfortunately, many think letting their light shine means pushing and threatening people. Screaming insults, chanting, or pushing our way into other’s lives usually has the opposite effect on people. Matthew 5:16 holds the key. Christ says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” We are to let them see our good works, not force our beliefs upon them.
Many of us want to share what we have learned with others. After all, God’s way and Christ’s message are exciting. But sometimes people are not prepared to sit and listen. I have found myself speaking to someone about what I have learned when I notice their expression go blank. At that point, I know he or she has quit listening, so I wrap it up and stop talking. The problem is not that we want to share our zeal with people, but that our message is only heard if the hearers want to listen. Once they shut down there is no point. I am not saying to not talk about God, but not to waste time on those who will not listen (Acts 28:27). One problem we may have is telling others how to live God’s way, but not letting them see it in the way we live.
We greatly influence others by the way we live our lives. It does not have to always be in substantial gestures. It is often the small things people consistently see in us over time that have the greatest impact. I once worked in a large office. I did not curse, but those around me often did. I never corrected them as it was not my place in that environment, but over time they noticed I did not swear. When they were around me they were careful not to do it, but if they slipped they apologized to me. I had never said a word but had influenced their behavior by my actions. A small thing, but it shows how our actions can influence others. I have seen this happen time and again in various ways. This can also open the door to conversation as they wonder why we are different.
Have you ever watched a protest? Arguments or actual fights often break out between the opposing parties. When this happens, both sides appear intolerant and certainly not loving. But loving our neighbor is essential in Christian life (Matthew 22:39; Galatians 5:14; Mark 12:31). As Christians, we are to walk a different walk. We are to be a people who are loving and caring, trying to walk uprightly in God’s way with integrity (Proverbs 10:9; Psalm 119:3). By doing so we become brighter lights to those around us. As children, we may have been told to be good examples to others. This is exactly the advice Jesus Christ is giving us. Do good, not evil (3 John 1:11).
How we act is important. If we want to show God’s presence within us, we should emulate Jesus Christ’s ways and words in our actions. Some people get lots of attention for being kind to others in showy ways. We want to shine a brighter light by quietly showing how God’s kindness and love work in us. God’s Word is the light that guides us (Psalms 119:105). You surely have wonderful memories of someone from your past. It is likely a person who showed you great love. Someone you looked up to, or who showed you how life should be lived. It is usually a person who you respected that holds an esteemed place in your memory. Whatever it was about that person, it made an impact on you. We want to have that kind of impact on others.
We are to look for the good in everyone, even our enemies (Luke 6:27-28). Our actions are remembered. Each time we show we are peaceful, in control and kind instead of angry, we shine a light. We are told people will know us by our fruits (Matthew 7:16-20). Fruits can grow or shrivel up—it depends on how they are cared for. When we shine our light by living God’s way, those fruits grow and people around us see them.
When we acknowledge good in others and they see goodness in us, they often open a door to us by asking more about what we have learned. Even if the door opens only a crack, we have an opportunity to slip in a word or two. There does not have to be a long conversation. Anything we tell someone about God’s way and His son Jesus Christ helps. The brighter light God gives us may just be the spark that begins to light their pathway to God.