The Light of the World

Most Christians know that they're supposed to "share the good news"—but what does that actually mean?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about outreach, or about sharing the Lord’s truth with those who may not yet have heard it. The simple fact is that the Lord told us—commanded us—to share His truth with everyone. Virtually every Christian knows the Great Commission, the Lord’s last words in the Gospel of Matthew:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (28:19-20)

The Lord’s commission to His disciples at the end of the Gospel of Mark is even shorter and more direct:

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. (16:15)

The word “gospel” has come to be almost synonymous with “the Christian message,” but the word itself simply means “good news.” And what is this good news? That Christ rose from His tomb on the third day? That’s part of it. But of course, it’s so much more than that—the good news is that God is on our side, that hell is powerless against Him, that heaven is real, that salvation is possible…. The good news runs on and on. It wells up like a fountain of living waters. The Christian message is alive with hope and with illuminating light, and at no point is the good news “over.” The whole of the Lord’s Word is His gospel, and His Word is infinitely profound.

What we’re commanded to share with “all the world,” then, isn’t something we can fit on a brochure or a postcard. It’s not enough for us to make our “pitch”—to trot out our carefully worded thirty-second speech—and then dust off our hands and go home and have no more to do with the gospel. Which may be quite disheartening, because talking to a relative stranger about one’s own religion for even just thirty seconds takes a substantial amount of courage. If that’s not enough, then the bar is really high. What are we supposed to share with the world, then?

In the Gospel of John, the Lord gives His disciples a command that says a lot about what the Great Commission really means. He says:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (13:34-35)

This commandment is perhaps as well-known as the Great Commission, but I don’t know how often they’re treated—as I believe they should be—as simply two different phrasings of the very same commandment. The Lord sends His disciples out before all the world, bearing His teachings, bearing His good news, bearing His love, bearing… Him. The gospel has life unto itself because it is His truth. It is from Him and it is Him—He is the Word made flesh (John 1:14). We make ourselves know to the world as His disciples when we let ourselves be made images and likenesses of Him, loving as He loves. In a word, then, what we are to share with all the world is… the Lord. He said to us:

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matt. 5:14-16)

We can be thrown by the commandment to let “our” light shine. Surely the light the Lord wants us to share is not the light of our own brilliance or our own accomplishments. However much we might like to share that sort of light with the world, it’s pretty obvious that promoting ourselves doesn’t serve His purposes. To my mind, the quality of the light that we are to share is captured best in this statement from the Lord’s own Word:

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. (Isaiah 60:1)

The glory of the Lord—the power of the Lord, the light of the Lord, the love of the Lord—wells up like living water in those who give their lives to Him. And He says let it shine! Take away the veils! It is not ourselves that are glorified when we set that light on a lampstand: the glory belongs to our Father in heaven. It’s not for our sake that we shine, but for His—for the sake of the great and beautiful work that He has commanded us to do, the work of sharing the warmth of His presence with the world. “I am the light of the world,” He says (John 8:12, 9:5). And He says, “I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:20). The glory of the Lord has risen upon us, and He exhorts us: share it.

Letting that light shine is more complicated than finding the right words to put on a postcard, and takes considerably more courage. The good news isn’t something we can put out there and then walk away from. More than anything else, letting the glory of the Lord shine in us has to do with living a life of charity, a life in which He can be present. He commanded us, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works…” (Matt. 5:16). He also said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). We can share the gospel without words—and in fact, none of our words will ever be able to hold the fulness of the good news.

And, all that being said, the Lord also commanded us to go to all nations, teaching them to observe all things that He has commanded us (Matt. 28:20). Words have a place in the sharing of the good news. More important than exactly what we say is the courage to speak in the first place. Our God will guide us, if we’re willing to put ourselves and our voices into His hands (Matt. 10:19). His goal is to make Himself known to every human heart that is willing to receive Him, for the sake of giving us joy in His heavenly home. If we make ourselves willing vessels, He will do good. He will find a way to do good—in us, and through us.

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. (John 13:20)

As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God…. (John 1:12)

—Rev. Jared Buss, June 2019