We ought not to forget our responsibility towards others, for there can be no valid excuse for a Christian who exhibits a selfish indifference to the highest welfare of others. Setting aside for the time the claims arising out of the bond of our common manhood, the Scripture is clear that "none of us liveth to himself, and none dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's." — Rom. 14:7, 8. This passage, therefore, clearly implies that just as surely as we have an unchangeable relation to the Lord Himself, so surely we have an unchanging relation to those about us.
Do we sufficiently consider this relation? And, are we helping others to come to Christ, or, are we stumbling blocks in their way? Most honest-hearted Christians will readily admit that there is scope for considerable improvement in their testimony for the Master. And in many cases there is no doubt just cause for alarm and anxiety because of the lack of evidence that any real help has been rendered to others. But, personally, I am always much comforted under such circumstances by the reflection that the finest Christian influence is usually exercised quietly, gently, and for the most part unconsciously.
I would not disparage verbal testimony, but it has its times and seasons. There is a time to speak, and a time to be silent, as the Preacher says, and it is of the latter — the inaudible, intangible power for good and grace — that I wish now to write.
Light, but not lightning, is said to be sweet and pleasant to the eyes. There were two men of old, surnamed Boanerges — the sons of thunder; but the whole body of Christians were called sons of the light. — Luke 16:8; John 12:36; Eph. 5:8. The thunder and lightning of robust, vigorous testimony in speech and action is doubtless necessary at certain junctures, but a glow of Christ-like goodness is always effective, and should be maintained by every believer at all times.
The figure of the shining of light is frequently employed in Holy Scripture to denote Christian life in normal action. We can only now refer to that one passage in which our Lord says, "Even so let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." — Matt. 5:16. This metaphor is beautifully expressive of the unobtrusive example set by the true Christian disciple, and of that quiet confident demeanour which is the accompaniment of a simple faith in God.
You will observe what a simple injunction this is. We are instructed to let our light shine. Unquestionably, the main function of light is to shine. We are enjoined to let it do so. Unless the light is covered by a bushel or concealed under the bed it will shine with usefulness. Place the lamp on its stand, and it will shed light unto all that are in the house. Even so, said the Lord, let your light shine before men. It is as if He had said, You have your light; take care to allow no obstruction to interfere with the diffusion of its radiance around you.
Do you ask, What is our light? Again, I refer you to the word of our Lord: "I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life." — John 8:12. Christ our Exemplar, therefore, is our Light, as He is also our Life. Let us humbly, prayerfully, habitually follow Him: so shall we be His disciples, and so also shall we become as our Master.
Those who follow Jesus are for this very reason light-bearers, since they "walk in the light, even as He is in the Light"; and to follow Jesus is itself a figurative expression for such as are animated by an abiding and unfading sense of His presence with them throughout both day and night. You can prove this for yourself. Your daily tasks may be disagreeable, but the knowledge that the Unseen Saviour is with you and will not leave you lightens the burden, cheers the despondent moment, strengthens the fainting spirit, and fills the timorous heart with courage.
When you are thus lifted up with joy and peace because you know the Lord is near at hand, depend upon it, "your light" is then shining. For then your eyes of faith would be upon the face of Him whose countenance shines likes the sun, and in consequence, the light that never was on sea or land would be shining forth from you, though you, yourself, might be unconscious of it.
Your companions usually scan your conduct with keen vision. Do not, therefore, conceal nor obscure your light, but let it shine before them with a simple constancy. You will thereby be rendering a useful service.
From a hillside overlooking the Thames valley, I have often watched the landscape slowly blotted out as the darkness fell. And, now here, now there, now near, now far, the lights would dart into view. A cluster of them would tell of a hamlet, a faint glimmer of some labourer's cottage, a moving twinkle would show some vehicle on the roads, and away on the horizon a flashing electric ray would be warning mariners of lurking dangers on the coast. Every light spoke to the watcher of life hidden from his sight, of human purpose and activity, and of men's victories over the black obscurity of night-time. But the lights themselves were just shining athwart the gloom, all unconscious of the peering eyes on the hilltop. Nevertheless, each one was a witness of the presence and energy of invisible human force.
Similarly, every Christian is here in the world as a living centre of divine operations.
For the sake of others then, let your light shine. Practise Christ-like actions. Pray for all men. Do good to all, specially to those of the household of faith. Keep yourselves pure. Suffer no word or act of yours to defile the windows of the soul and obscure your light. Be upright and true. Cultivate a spirit of cheerfulness at all times, and let your heart be filled with great gladness.
If this be true of you, you will have a supply of oil in your vessels with your lamps, and your lamps will not be going out, but, on the contrary, your power of illumination in this world of darkness will increase. For "the path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." — Prov. 4:18.