Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness. -Mother Teresa
God made the sun to shine on the just and the unjust. Even so, many people haven’t seen light in years, or ever.
I saw this firsthand one summer in downtown Jackson, MS. I happened across a family who had recently left comfortable jobs to become missionaries in one of the most dangerous areas of the city. When I met them for the first time, I listened as the husband and wife told story after miraculous story. When they arrived, every house within a stone’s throw of theirs was filled with drugs and prostitution. They showed up with very little besides incredible faith and a very simple strategy. Build relationships. Be the light. Show the love of Jesus. Slowly, the darkness left.
Still blown away by all I was seeing and hearing, the husband said something I will never forget. He said they arrived in this darkness armed with one truth. If they allowed the light of Christ to shine through them, the darkness would leave.
“Darkness has no choice but to leave in the presence of light,” he added. “No matter where God takes you, don’t forget you are the light of the world. Let it shine.”
I will never forget his words as long as I have breath in my lungs.
His words profoundly impacted my faith. They also changed how I approach my steps as a Christian. Sure, this family’s move required immense trust in God. But is that what it means to shine the light? Do you have to take up residence beside drug dealers and prostitutes?
Maybe. I can’t answer that question for you.
I’ll tell you, however, what God has shown me. More times than not, it’s more difficult to shine the light of Christ at work or school than, say, Mexico or Africa. I’ve been on short-term mission trips. I think they are good and necessary. But you don’t need to figure out how to show the love of Jesus in a third-world country. It’s laid out for you, literally.
But what about your next door neighbor with a broken marriage or your friends at school who find humor in making fun of others? How do you allow the light of Christ to shine in these situations?
What about guys’ night when the conversation goes south or girls’ night when the gossip starts, how do you push away the darkness in these moments?
I’m not sure about you, but I find it more difficult to be Jesus in these spaces. It seems I’m better at shining my light on the other side of the world than the other side of the street.
Yet this is where God has called my light to shine, close to home. The same is true for most of you.
So, how do we make this happen?
Let’s not overthink things. Sometimes we do that as Christians. We become overwhelmed with the results or the investment of time or whatever. We start, I believe, real simple. With our words.
This verse in Proverbs 18 keeps replaying in my head: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
What if one of the ways we are called to be light is by utilizing self-control over our tongues?
I mean, think about it. Consider how someone’s life might change with a few words of love, hope, or encouragement? Someone at your school, maybe. Someone who has been bullied? Let’s come at this from another angle. Think about how a simple interjection might change the direction of a conversation.
James refers to our tongue as fire. We’ve all been hurt by that fire. But how often do we use fire for good? I can think of a few. What about cooking dinner? Campfire on a cold night?
Because we have the Spirit of the Lord, we can use our tongue as a fire that shines LIGHT in darkness. And the beautiful thing about our tongue— it goes everywhere with us. It can be a power for good at all times.
Here are 5 practical ways you can use your tongue to shine the light of Christ.
1. Purify your heart.
In Matthew 12:34, Jesus says, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Your speech usually reflects our thoughts.
Try something new. Before you speak, give your words a “heart check.” Are your thoughts pure regarding what is coming from your tongue? Have you asked the Lord for wisdom? Seek the Lord’s guidance on words flowing from your tongue.
2. Choose words that speak life.
Take inventory of your words the past few days. How many of them were filled with hope? How many were encouraging? How many pushed back the darkness?
It’s laughably easy to go a whole day without considering the power of your words. I’m guilty of this more days than I care to admit.
Speaking words of life requires intentionality.
3. Speak at the right time.
Proverbs 25:11 says, “Like apples of gold in silver carvings is a word spoken at the right time.” YUM! Not real apples. I hate fruit. But apples of gold? Ummm, yes, I’ll take 50.
Speaking at the right time can be a game changer, especially in relationships. If you’ve been married for longer than a month, you know how timing can radically change the meaning and outcome of a conversation.
Ever been in a team meeting at work when your boss points out a flaw in you or your work? (Or maybe you are the boss who points out your team members flaws in the group setting.) Immediately, everyone in the room feels squishy and knows the conversation was best reserved for later? Whether the recipient or the deliverer, important values like trust and competency have been undermined because someone spoke at the wrong time.
Even Jesus valued the timing of his words. In John 16, he told his disciples, “There is much more I want to tell you, but you are not able to bear them now.” Jesus clearly had more to say, but the timing wasn’t right.
4. Discern when silence is golden.
Let me hit you with some old time religion. It’s Psalm 4:4 and it goes like this: “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent.”
In a world where everyone believes their opinion is worth more than two cents, this verse sounds more than old school. It borders on blasphemous.
Think about it overnight? Remain silent? And, what, look weak? Let my spouse have the last word? Let the guy who started beef with me on Twitter make the last comment?
While Psalm 4:4 might not qualify as new age thinking, it’s exactly the prescription we need. Too often, deafened by the never-ending noise, we forget about the transformative power of listening. If you want to shine the light of Christ, sit down with someone, ask them a question and listen to their response.
This verse could also remedy the words we say in emotionally-charged moments. These are the words we almost always regret. If, however, like the Psalmist says, we think about it overnight, remaining silent, we give our emotions time to pass.
5. Speak graciously.
Luke 4 says Jesus’s listeners were astounded at his “gracious” words. How often do your words sound gracious?
Too often, we speak harsh words to those closest to us, our family and friends. And we deem it okay because they know us best. But let’s not forgot that shining the light of Christ starts in our home. It makes little sense to shine your light across the street if your home is dark. Speak with kindness to your children, your spouse, your parents.
The Lord will bless the extra mile you travel to speak graciously.
There are loads of different ways that the Lord calls each of us individually to shine light into the dark, broken world we live in. I pray that we can see the gift the Lord has given us in being able to use our tongue as a force for good.
I would love to hear from you. How can we use our words to shine the light of Christ? Leave a comment below.
Grace and peace, friends.