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May 2006

Reaching for the bucket

Christians are born to shine. In the resurrection, declares Daniel, ‘those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars for ever and ever’ (Daniel 12:3). The Lord Jesus Christ takes up the theme: ‘then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father’ (Matthew 13:43).

But what will be true then is equally true now. Christians, says Paul, are ‘children of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom you shine as lights in the world’ (Philippians 2:15), while Jesus tells his disciples, ‘You are the light of the world’ (Matthew 5:14).

The darkness of the world is not primarily intellectual, technological or cultural — it is moral and spiritual. In these areas of life, each believer should be an oasis of light in a desert of darkness.

Thus Paul again exhorts, ‘You were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light … proving what is acceptable to the Lord and having no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them’ (Ephesians 5:8-11).

Ridiculous

But here lies the rub. The light exposes the dark thoughts and deeds of men, and they react with anger and malice. The Christian who truly shines will attract mockery and aggression from all quarters — including friends, family, neighbours, colleagues, school friends, fellow students and, in many places, the authorities.

Our temptation is, therefore, to hide the light and blend into the background (this goes for churches as well as individuals). But the Saviour demonstrates how ridiculous this is, projecting a scenario of delicious irony (Matthew 5:14-16).

Imagine an ordinary home. As the gloom of evening gathers, the householder takes a lamp, checks the oil and lights the wick. He puts it on a table and light floods the room.

But then he casts his eye around and sees an empty bucket. ‘Just the thing’, he mutters. He takes it and, with a sigh of relief, inverts it over the lamp — plunging the room back into darkness!

But that’s ridiculous, you reply. Exactly, for ‘no one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light’ (Luke 8:16). For Christians to conceal their light is nonsensical. Yet we do it all the time.

Reaching for the bucket

We witness to our friends but our words are met with ridicule. ‘You go to church twice on Sundays? Get a life! You believe the Bible is true? You must be joking!’ How do we respond? Too often we reach for the bucket.

Your boss asks you to tell a lie or falsify a document. Do you explain that as a Christian you cannot do so? Or do you reach for the bucket and comply?

You have an opportunity to gather with fellow believers for prayer and Bible instruction. But it is raining and you are tired and preoccupied. Do you ‘choose the better part’ as Mary did? Or do you reach for the bucket and put your feet up?

Another believer offends you. Do you respond graciously and forgive, or do you reach for the bucket and harbour a grudge (or respond spitefully in kind)?

Simplicity

It really is not difficult to shine. Jesus said, ‘Let your light so shine before men …’ (Matthew 5:16). We are not told to kindle the light or generate it like a living dynamo. We simply have to let it shine.

If we have been born from above, we already have the light of life — for ‘God … has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’.

All we have to do is let the light that is in us shine out — by practising those good works, good attitudes, good words and good thoughts that manifest the indwelling of Christ. All we have to do is stop reaching for the bucket.

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