In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.Matthew 5:16
A few years ago, I was out night sailing with some friends. Okay – I’ll admit it – we were sailing back from the pub, but none of us is in the habit of drinking to excess. Whilst we were in the pub, it got dark. We had to try and navigate ourselves home across a two-mile wide river estuary. Unable to see the other side of the sail, I tasked one of my friends, who shall remain nameless, responsibility for acting as look out. He wasn’t very good at it, and we almost hit a twenty-foot high post with a flashing light on top of it, which was marking the depth of water in the channel. We rib my friend about this incident mercilessly to this day!
Of course, if it had been day, we would have seen the post. If the light on the post had not been intermittently flashing, but had a constant beam, I’m sure that my friend would have noticed it. As it was, the fact that it was painted black and not particularly effectively lit meant my friend didn’t notice it.
Some Christians are like that, too. You meet them at school or at work, and you would not know that they are Christians; there is nothing distinctive in their actions that marks them out from the sea of non-believers around them. You could meet them and be none the wiser that they had a faith.
Jesus often refers to himself as the Light of the World, illuminating the darkness of our sinful planet. Here, though, he commands his disciples to do the same; he tells them to let their light “shine before men.” It’s no good hiding away our faith – it should be obvious to all those we meet. Jesus here explains the reasoning for this; people should see the disciples’ good deeds “and praise your Father in Heaven.” People should recognize the reason we are acting as we should, and through our actions we should point them to God.
Actions, it is often said, speak louder than words. Jesus recognizes the importance of action. Do you?