In the same way let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven – Matthew5:16
I go to the pool a lot with my little boy Abe. He is 2. It is one of my favorite things that he and I share. It is infinitely fun and rewarding to get him excited about swimming, jumping in, going under, holding his breath and splashing. He loves to be thrown, pulled and to ride around on my back. It took him a while though to want to fling himself in from the edge. I would stand in the pool and hold out my hands to encourage him saying, “Come on buddy, jump to me!” but he wasn’t very into the idea. Throughout our time in going to the pool, he has varying degrees of confidence with jumps into the water. But the other day when we were there together, I had a revelation. With no agenda, I said, “Abe, watch daddy!” and I broke away from him suddenly, sprinted twenty yards and did a huge dive into the pool creating a horrendously obnoxious splash, much to the dismay of the nearby sunbathers.
I came up barely in time to see my boy flinging himself in right behind me just like I had done, completely unbidden by me, with a huge grin on his face. Nothing else I had done to encourage Abe to jump into the pool had had the same effect of Abe observing me having a recklessly good time in doing it. My son followed what he saw me doing and delighting in. He then embarked upon a spree of jumps, most of the time right on my heels.
All of my verbal encouragement to Abe had not yielded the effect that my enjoyment of jumping into the pool had. He observed that I was doing something and appeared to be having a good time. In his two-year-old mind, he reasoned that he would pursue the same enjoyment and follow my example.
This got me to thinking about something else. All people do what little Abe did in this circumstance. People, for better or for worse, emulate what they see others doing. In particular, they imitate what others do that seems to be enjoyable. Or cool. Or hip. Or stylish. Or informed. Or strong. Or enlightened. Women imitate the hair and dress of actresses and Princess Kate. Athletes imitate the techniques and adopt the training principles of the professionals who are winning. Kids imitate the cartoon characters they watch. Teenagers imitate the mannerisms of their peers who appear to be stylish and cool.
People are a lot of things. People are hopeless, sad, melancholy, self conscious, self-absorbed, worried, proud and vain. We want to be somebody. To be something. We desire to matter. We long for attention. We yearn for purpose. We pine for significance. We ache to be fulfilled. So when we as fallen creatures see another human who appears to be being happy, cool, respected, fulfilled, beautiful, handsome, strong, elegant or smart we think, “I’ll do that.”
Jesus knew this about us. God knows everything about every human that has ever lived or ever will live. Jesus knows that we are a race of imitators. So in the sermon on the mount, Jesus said …. “In the same way let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven”.
“Let your light shine before men”. Let your light, that is in you from Jesus having purchased you from darkness, shine IN FRONT of (not behind where they can’t see it) other people. Why do this? So that… “… they may see your good deeds” In order that they can put their eyes on what you (a born again, child-of-God) do.
And also so that they… “glorify your Father in Heaven”. Who glorifies God? Well everyone in one way or another, ultimately. But in particular, His children. His followers. His believers. How do they glorify God? By obeying Him. By demonstrating the change He has brought about in them. By enjoying Him. By serving others. By loving Him and other people greatly with joy and gladness.
So when Jesus says these words in Matthew 5:16 I think he means, “ … live in such a way so as to inspire other people to say about your life ‘Wow, God is truly great’.” But I also think he means this, “ Live in such a way so as to inspire others to follow your example, and follow your light straight to me. Live in such a way so that people glorify me by giving their lives to me having been won over by your example.”
Who, if anyone, on planet Earth should be a happy, fulfilled person? A Christian. Someone who knows the source of satisfaction intimately. Who should be someone who leads a life worth imitating? A born-again son or daughter of the King. We should hope that our lives radiate such hope and joy in the midst of difficulty that non-believers see it and imitate it. Because if they see our good works and follow our light, it is not ultimately us they are following. They are following Jesus. We should live with such radical, reckless, abandoned, risk-taking faith in Jesus that non-believers covet what we have. So what should we do? We should talk. And do other stuff besides talking.
Our words are vitally necessary. Our words are indispensable. We must speak about the gospel, eternity, sin, judgment, God’s Righteousness and all surpassing Holiness, the hope of the cross and the availability of a new life in Christ. But we mustn’t only speak. We must have deeds. Great deeds. Inexplicable deeds. Deeds that only have an amazing, incomprehensibly great God as a rationale. If non-believers observe our deeds and only see really moral, bible reading, bored, just-as-worried-and-stressed-out-as-they-are people then they are not seeing what they should see. They aren’t seeing anything worth imitating. They are not seeing anything that they even want to imitate. They aren’t seeing anything that is going to cause them to “…see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.”
Non-believers should look at the lives of Christians and see them running, as it were, with great joy and excitement to fling themselves into a pool of radical liberating obedience to God and be inspired to know that Savior! They should see believers in the depths of pain and sorrow who are still clinging tenaciously to the hope of eternal life and the promise of a God who will never leave them. They should observe the light of endless, unconditional compassion that mirrors the life of the low servant/King Jesus.
People are going to imitate something. Chances are good, someone will imitate you. Better yet, someone is probably already imitating you. Let us shine with light that illuminates Jesus. Let us imitate Jesus so that when people see our deeds they see His deeds. Let us find our joy, happiness, satisfaction, hope and security in Him so that it illumines the path for others to follow. So plead with, share with and talk to non-believers. But also let them see you fling yourself into a pool.
Jason Faircloth currently teaches 3rd grade at the Manantial School in Puerto Escondido and also serves as the Primary School Principal. Jason and his wife, Kate, and son, Abraham, have lived in Puerto Escondido for almost 4 years now serving with Global Education Ministries.