Did you know it’s purported that the Las Vegas strip is the brightest spot on Earth when viewed from space, or that the casinos use about nine million lightbulbs per floor? If you’ve ever driven on the bright streets of Las Vegas, you would probably notice you could drive comfortably at night without your headlights. Once off the strip, though, things change, and the night gets very dark very quickly. From the dark, the brightness of the strip can be seen from any direction in the city.
I remember one occasion when I was driving into Las Vegas from a not-so-popular freeway. Without street lights or other cars, it was practically pitch black with a blanket of stars, but far away in the distance, I could see the orange glare of the city’s illumination.
In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus tells the people, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” It is not hard to picture that image of being in the countryside on a dark night and seeing a brightly lit city off in the distance. That’s the kind of hope that God wants us to be to the world, the kind of comfort we’re supposed to bring to the hopeless.
Something that I learned in chemistry is that light occurs from a reaction; it may be the intended goal, but it occurs because something else was done first. In other words, light doesn’t happen on its own. It takes work. There is no light that exists in the universe that occurs without some kind of energy to produce it.
That is like us in our spiritual lives. Being a light may be the goal, but it happens as a result of some other effort, like living in submission to God and showing His love to the world. Conversely, darkness is easy. Darkness just happens. It’s what the natural world has a tendency for, and there is no distinction between one darkness and another.
Just like the Las Vegas strip in the middle of a desert, we should be distinct enough from the world that we stand out. As we live in a way that honors God, showing His love to each other and to the world, the light of heaven will naturally flow out as a beacon to those that wander in the dark.