“By This Shall All Men Know…”
Jesus wants His disciples to be the light of the world.
One of the reasons, I believe, God doesn’t snatch us immediately into eternity right after being saved at baptism, though He could, is that He wants to keep us on the earth long enough so that we will exert an influence on the world. Jesus said, “Ye are the light of the world ... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). Just like the centurion in Matthew 27 was able to perceive the innocence and godly nature of Jesus and conclude, as He took His last breath hanging on the cross, “Truly this was the Son of God,” (v. 54) the same way people around us can pick up our distinctive Christian character. What would the indicators be? Benevolence shown to one another, seasoned speech towards each other, devotion to God demonstrated in regular attendance to worship, faithfulness to Him regardless of suffering, appetite for the sharing of the gospel of salvation with the lost, and so on.
Of course, the events that took place at the time of the death of Jesus at Golgotha (tombs opening, earth quaking, rocks renting etc) were miracles, and they constituted a manifestation of His divine power. They also served as evidence of His authority. So, God does not desire that we perform miracles. Instead, the Lord expects good deeds from Christians. The Lord is interested in each of His disciples being seen by non-believers, and also fellow-Christians, as examples of goodness. One word summarizes all acts of goodness; it’s love. This virtue has the potential to communicate something about us: our allegiance to Jesus as well as our commitment to His doctrine. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).
While love shows the “inward man” (2 Corinthians 4:16), that is the belief of our hearts, it also powerfully communicates the fact that we have been freed from the burden of past sins and are now on a course to wholly do good all the rest of our lives. When the apostle Paul wrote to the brethren at Philippi, he said, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). Rest your mind on the word “conversation” for a moment. It means “manner of life” according to the American Standard Version (ASV). Barclay explains that the word literally means “to be a citizen.” Philippi was a Roman colony like many others, and these colonies were planted all over the ancient world. Romans ancient world. Romans could be identified by the way they dressed, spoke, and the Latin names by which they addressed their magistrates. Christians being citizens of a heavenly kingdom (Colossians 1:13), they should be recognizable by their conduct. In short, they ought to be distinct (1 Peter 2:9).
Gospel and Christian life are intrinsically and inextricably related. The way Christians portray themselves in the eyes of the world can either betray or empower the message that we preach to people. The conduct of unfaithful Christians may become a hurdle and keep people out of the Lord’s church (Romans 14:13). Sadly, some individuals view the lives of Christians who do not practice Christianity consistently as a reflection on the gospel.
Remember, as Christians we try not only to get people to accept the gospel in faith but we also seek to help them adhere to Christian values. Christians thus have a two-fold responsibility with regard to unbelievers. With this responsibility come honour and privilege. It places us in a situation of close association with the Lord. Christians are in business with Christ who came into the world “To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79). He said, “ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the world: walk as children of light: (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8).
The world is marred with violence and murder that the media report on almost every day. Several countries around the world have now passed laws that make “right” the killing of babies in the womb before they are born. This is the sin of abortion that post-modern societies are grossly guilty of. The lowering of the standards of sexual morality is shocking. Divorce rates are staggering; men and women divorce for almost any reason imaginable these days. At the heart of these problems is the growing sense, conscious or unconscious, that matter is the only reality there is in the universe. Consequently, people are treated, either by themselves or others, as objects.
Neuroscientists have taken this way of viewing mankind a step further. They purport that human beings are nothing more than the results of chemical reactions. If this assertion is true then it is but a chemical racket, and therefore I wouldn’t personally put much stock into it – I’m being facetious. This is where atheism and materialism, upon which the theory of evolution of English naturalist Charles Darwin rests, have brought us. But we shouldn’t despair. We rather need to be confident that we still can make a difference in the world. Christians are needed in this age more than ever.