The only purpose of a lamp is to get light. We never call anything that cannot give us light, a lamp. Our age-old practice has been to light the lamp and keep it at some convenient place. Many of us think that our duty is over once we keep its flame burning.
But to put the lamp in the right place is as important as lighting it. It is here that we stumble. The enthusiasm with which we light the lamp vanishes soon afterwards and we seldom care for putting it at the right place. Jesus has a few words to tell us in this regard. ‘No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light’ (Lk 8:16). In fact only a lamp which is placed on a lampstand is worth its name, because it performs its primary duty of giving light to those around.
We are proud of our Christian faith and heritage. We take pride in telling others that the lamp of faith reached our hands centuries ago. We are also proud that we keep its flame intact, without giving a chance to anybody to put it out. So far so good. But the pertinent question is; where do we keep our lamps? Some under jars and some under their beds! Some others have invented novel methods to keep their lamps without ever being seen by others.
The wicked and lazy servant also did the same thing. He hid the coin ‘wrapping it up in a piece of cloth’ (Lk 19:20) until his master came back. Our Master also will return one day and will question us about what he entrusted us with. Do you think that he will be satisfied if we return the principal amount? Then what about the interest? In a world of diminishing returns our Lord should be given at least a reasonable return. It is pretty foolish to think that Jesus will be happy with those who kept their faith, but did not share it with others, so as to increase the returns of faith.
In the final analysis, what counts is how and how much we shared the light of faith with others. It doesn’t need the title of a bishop, priest, or preacher to share the light of gospel. We can, and we should emanate the light of gospel in our everyday actions. In our homes, workplaces, business establishments and wherever we go , God gives us enough opportunities to give witness to the gospel. There is only one reason for us to pull back from this cardinal duty. It is sheer shame. Jesus Christ has warned us about the consequences of feeling ashamed to confess his name and his words. ‘Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels’ (Lk 9:26).
We have innumerable examples of those who never felt ashamed to give witness to Jesus Christ and his gospel at every opportunity. Their hope was simple. When their Lord returns, he should not be ashamed of them!
When I S I S terrorists beheaded 21 people in Libya, none of them denied their faith in Jesus to escape from a sure and imminent death. Of those 21, only twenty were Christians and the twenty first person, who never knew who Jesus was, also showed his head to the terrorists. What prompted him to sacrifice his life for a God whom he never knew, was the courage with which his friends confessed their faith in Jesus. In Nigeria, where murdering Christians is an ongoing daily ritual, none of them denies their Lord Jesus Christ. In many Muslim countries where Christians are persecuted for their faith, the number of believers are increasing day by day. It is because those who were persecuted and killed for their faith, kept their lamps not under jars or beds, but on their lampstands. Its light attracted many more to Jesus and brought more and more conversions. If the fastest growing church these days is those in China and Iran, it speaks volumes about the way their minuscule Christian population held aloft their lamp of faith against all odds.
Let us introspect. Where are we standing? Where are our lamps? Living in comfortable zones, without having to face persecution or discrimination, are we true to our faith? We cannot offer any valid reason for shying away from our primary duty of giving witness to Jesus. Majority of those who read this are living in countries where the right to profess one’s faith is guaranteed by law. Yet, if we ignore giving Jesus to others, what answer are we going to keep ready for the moment when our Lord returns?
Is our lamp still burning? Is it put on its lampstand? Do others who meet us see the light of Jesus in us? Finally has anybody found the way to Jesus through the light of the lamp that you and I lit? Let us pray; O Lord Jesus Christ, who came to the world as its light, give us the grace to proclaim our faith in everything we do. May our lamp of faith lead those in darkness to the eternal light that you promised. Amen.