You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, 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 who is in heaven. [Matthew 5:14-16 ESV]
God makes Himself know to people through people. The light Jesus is speaking of here is not mere reflection but is part of the eternal essence of the citizen. We do not reflect God’s light any more than we reflect His image. Since His image is essential to who we are so the light coming from us is essential to what we are. Our moon reflects the light of the sun, yet it is dead having no source of light in and of itself. We are eternal beings with eternal characteristics which transcend our temporal selves.
Light cannot lose its characteristics. It is loosed energy and will travel anywhere and everywhere dependent upon its source. It is important we understand the light Jesus is speaking of is created in us by God. We would have no light if God had not placed His light within each who belongs to Him. Like salt, Jesus is speaking of who we are at our core. Jesus is saying we are that which shows the sinful world the righteousness of God, an impossible purpose made easily possible by God.
We are salt and we are light because that is how God made us. We cannot force ourselves to be salt and light any more than we could force ourselves to be poor in spirit or a comic book superhero. God does in us that which we cannot. When faced with the hatred of the world it is God who works through us, through our unique characteristics and personalities.
Our light, His light in us, is like a “city on a hill.” It “cannot be hidden.” God has not left us in the world for us to hide, as tired and disgusted with the world we may become. He has placed us where He wants for His purpose. You are not your own but have been bought with a price. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body [1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV]. If we are His then we are His to do with and place where He wants.
We are His servants, not free as the world defines free, thinking as beings who ignore God. He did not light us, for that is what He does, to hide us away. He lights us, like lighting a candle, and puts us on a stand so we are useful. “Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house” [Matthew 5:15 ESV]. He uses us to attract those in the world to Himself and to reveal their need of Him.
Finally, He shows we are not the eternal object of His light. He is the final object of light. Though we are His our actions, words and attitudes are still our own. Though He works through us what we do is still evidence of who we are. Our faith is the conduit though which He delivers all we need to live in this world for Him. Whether we realize it or not, all we do, all we think, all we are shows the sinful world God. Such an awful responsibility. Here is where the war is waged. “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” [Matthew 5:16 ESV]. Peter echoes this statement.
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. [1 Peter 2:11-12 ESV]
We do this only after being changed by God. We must continually recognize and act on the truth of God’s sovereignty and control of our lives. Though the world tug and pull at us, though our very flesh tempts to sin, though our enemy, the defeated fallen liar, seeks to wound and kill us, we are His and nothing will extinguish our light. Jesus died on a cross for us. Even death could not extinguish His light for He is God our Redeemer.