Being the Light

The Internet was abuzz the day after the Inauguration of President Biden. Among other elements from the ceremony, huge attention went to Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s contribution to the occasion, “The Hill We Climb.” The lines that struck me the most were the poem’s final lines:

For there is always light

If only we’re brave enough to see it

If only we’re brave enough to be it

I don’t know if Ms. Gorman intended it, or if she considers herself a Christian, but her words reminded me of the words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. Matthew records Jesus saying:

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

(Matthew 5:14-16 NRSV)

This comes in the midst of Jesus calling his followers blessed in the midst of difficulties (the Beatitudes) and challenging them to love their enemies, and I think this context is critical to understanding the famous “light of the world” passage. It is genuinely hard to be a light in this world that is often very, very dark. I am writing this in the midst of a global pandemic that has revealed all sorts of structural issues in our society, certainly the darkest episode of history I have ever experienced. It would be far simpler to not only quarantine my body, but to quarantine my mind and my heart as well and wait for this to pass.

But that’s not what Jesus calls for. He calls me to let my light shine, to be a beacon of hope and a witness to the promises of God that this is not the end, that this pandemic and all the other metaphorical plagues on our society are not all there is.

The light found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is always there, but we have to be brave enough to see it. And then we have to be brave enough to be it. And the eyes to see and the strength to be come from Christ himself, sharing his resurrection power with us (Ephesians 1:18-19).

Reality Changing Observations

1. In what ways has Jesus shown me his light in the world?

2. In what ways is Jesus calling me to be his light in the world?

3. What are my greatest obstacles to being the light of Jesus in the world?

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