“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.” (John 1:6-8)
God, speaking through the Apostle, John, made it abundantly clear that John the Baptist, great though he might be, was not the Light; he was simply one who bore witness to the Light. It’s as if God knew that someone would be tempted to confuse the two. But there is a big difference between showing someone where the light switch is and wiring a house for electricity!
I’m well aware that Matthew 5:14-16 teaches, you and I are also to be lights; but I don’t have to refer to a Greek lexicon, or notice that the “light” in this passage is not capitalized, to understand that my light is not the same as that Light, the “Sun of righteousness” (Mal. 4:2). The fact that my light can be hidden “under a bushel” would tell me that.
Now, before you tune me out for stating the obvious, let me elaborate a little on something I said in the first paragraph, the fact that we’re tempted to confuse the two. First, no one can truly illuminate us on anything. “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). If any man or woman possesses any light at all on actual truth, it is because God, in His grace, has illuminated him or her. Others may point us to where the truth can be found, but only God can turn on the internal light bulb.
Second, and the point I especially wanted to make is this: You and I cannot be anyone else’s light. We can be candles in a dark place, but we can’t dispel the darkness. Only the sun can do that. If we could just wrap our minds around this truth, it would eliminate a great deal of frustration in our lives. I must admit, I’m preaching to myself here. Somehow I think that my powers of reasoning, my dire predictions, even my tears, can make someone suddenly “see the light.” The sad part is that these things can quickly degenerate into mental bullying, ecclesiastical threats, or emotional blackmail. We can (and should) bear witness to the Light, and acknowledge His principles of truth; but, beyond that, we cannot illuminate the hearts and minds of those to whom we bear witness. We cannot be the Light.
Matthew says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Did you notice in the text that people see our light by the things we do, not what we say? Good works top a good argument every time, especially when God’s glory is the goal.
So let’s “shine before men,” but always remember, we’re not the Light, and we will never illuminate even one of them.
“Who God does not teach, man cannot.” (Gaelic)