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Let It Shine


When Harriet and I visited Israel for the first time the nation's visual impact on our understanding of Scripture was immediate. At every turn there were stunning reminders of the common themes Jesus used to teach his disciples and bring truth to the multitudes who heard him. One of them was during our return trip to Jerusalem after having visited Masada, En Gedi, Qumran and several other sites around the Dead Sea. The road was long and straight, the terrain mountainous in the Wilderness of Judah. At a rest stop our professional guide told us to look at the peaks of the mountains. The villages and towns were visible in the distance. The truth of Christ's words was stunning---" A city set on a hill cannot be hidden" (Matthew 5:14, ESV). It was one of the vivid word pictures Jesus used to illustrate how our lights were to shine in this dark world. It was a topic he addressed several times---

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will

not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

John 8:12, ESV

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

For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,

that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.

Acts 13:47, ESV

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own

possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness

into his marvelous light.

1 Peter 2:9, ESV

No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a

stand, so that those who enter may see the light.

Luke 8:16, ESV

So, there they are, many of the verses that give practical application of Christ's command to let our light shine. As usual, there are more. But, these are sufficient to not only give us a picture of our personal witness, but to also give us clarity about what constitutes our witness. Jesus said, "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, ESV). Letting our light shine means living bold, Christian lives for others to see.

That's really a message we learned as children. It's another SONGOLOGY: Sustaining Truth in Children's Songs selection that has impressed me of late. Yes, I learned This Little Light of Mine in the Beginners Department of our Sunday School. It was written by Harry Dixon Loes in the 1920's. Although the song has been co-opted by several civil rights movements it was introduced as a church song based on Christ;s teaching about light. The tune was catchy and the words simple---

This little light of mine

I'm gonna let it shine.

This little light of mine,

I'm gonna let it shine.

This little light of mine

I'm gonna let it shine

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Other verses were later added with different lead in words:

[] Everywhere I go, I'm gonna let it shine...

[] All around my house, I'm gonna let it shine...

[] Out in the dark, I'm gonna let it shine...

And, without doubt, there are more, especially those many specifically addressing the various movements of the twentieth century.

My point? There are two of them. First, This Little Light of Mine is a gospel song. It is not a folk song, the music of any political persuasion, or sentiment of pop culture. The light identified by this old children's gospel tune is a life lived as an open reflection of Christ. The background isn't political preferences, biases, prejudice, or any human emotion. It is living the Christian life for all to see.

Second, the important words in this old favorite are the ones most often repeated---let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. The Christian faith isn't America's favorite anymore and personal witness is discouraged at just about every level of modern culture. Every Christian should be able to articulate their faith (see 1 Peter 3:15, ESV). But, Peter also wrote of the profound influence of letting our light shine---

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: 12, ESV

You know, this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.

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