The world needs you, dear Christian. When darkness shrouds a space, what is more welcomed and needed than light?
Isaiah prophesied in chapter 42 that Jesus would be a light for the nations. He would open “the eyes of the blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon…those who sit in darkness.” Matthew quoting from Isaiah 9, informs his readers that in Jesus “the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:15-16). Jesus is the light of the world and the darkness desperately needs Him.
But it is not Him alone that is to shine in this world. No, Jesus sends forth His disciples, with His light, to illumine this world. Amazingly, His light shines through us. Light is often used as a religious symbol. It points to the idea of purity, righteousness, life, knowledge. It is opposed to and distinct from impurity, sin, death, and ignorance.
As Christians, Christ not only gives us the light, but makes us light (Matthew 5:14). Paul makes this clear in Philippians 2 when he says that we are “children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as light in the world, holding fast to the word of life.” Not only have we received light, but we have become light. This is an amazing reality. In our union with Jesus Christ by faith, our life reflects His life in this dark world. The divine life of Christ is in us—He in us and we in Him—so we become the light of the world, shining forth His truth and person.
Light is radically different from darkness. You don’t take part of the darkness to make light. They are qualitatively different things. And when light shines, darkness disappears. Christians look different. Children of God look different from children of Satan (John 8:44). Citizens of heaven look different from citizens of earth. If we are filled with the Holy Spirit, there is to be the fruit of the Holy Spirit. If we know Christ, we are to look like Christ. As Christians, we speak different, we act different, we look different, we dream and plan and plot differently.
If we look like the darkness, then we cease to be light to those around us. If we don’t have the flavoring of Christ, we will not preserve or increase the appetite of those around us (Matthew 5:13). We are distinct. And this world needs us to be distinct. The world needs the Church to act and look like the Church!
As we dream and pray about the work in Malawi, my mind comes back to this time and again. I am praying for churches to be planted across this land, but not just any churches. I am praying for churches that will shine forth the true light of Christ, look like Christ, and draw others to Christ.
Christian churches and Christians too often fall into the trap of thinking they must become like the world to win the world. But the church will never win the world by looking like the world, but rather by looking like its Savior. We live as children of our Heavenly Father in this world. That is what Jesus implies in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” We don’t become like the world to win the world, because what we win them by we win them to.
May the churches planted in Malawi shine forth the light of Christ, may existing faithful churches continue to look like Christ, may churches shrouded in darkness be reformed in the light of Christ, and may the families we are sending out give their neighbors the light of Christ, because Malawi (and the entire world) needs Christ. As Jesus says, you don’t put a lamp under a basket, but on a stand so that its light shines (Matthew 5:15). Our world needs us, because our world needs Christ. May He do a mighty work in our time, shining forth His light through us into this present darkness in Malawi and all the world.
Pastor Jason Helopoulos