I began thinking about Jesus as light of the world, but then realised we too are called to be lamps and light, it’s part of our role to extend the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
As I hold on to a candle though, I quickly realise a candle doesn’t only give off light. It slowly consumes the wick, yet smoke rises rapidly and chaotically. A fragrance fills the area around the candle and there is heat that warms the air and melts the wax, transforming it from solid to liquid. There are even waxbows, see this article for some beautiful pictures. Quite simply, there is a lot going on.
Our role representing and extending the Kingdom of God is complex too, perhaps we are called to be more than just light, and maybe a more complex response will better meet the needs of the complicated world we exist in. Perhaps some people need to smell the sweet fragrance of the Kingdom from us and others may need us to be with them in the long term, like the wick that burns slowly. I know I get it wrong and respond to people in unhelpful ways sometimes. Thinking about all the different ways a candle affects the environment around it is helpful, it stops my one track thinking.
As an example, one area where I think Christians have been guilty of responding far too narrowly is with the issue of gay marriage. We have become so obsessed with light and dark, right and wrong, that we forget we should be a Christ-like fragrance (2 Cor 2:15). Many of us (not all, by any means) smell dreadful to those we shine a light on.
In other areas the church has been more successful, through Foodbanks we give a helping hand (a sweet fragrance) and have spoken out on the issues of poverty and inequality (shining a light). I’m impressed with the work Care does in trying to limit access to pornography for teenagers, knowing that when this is coupled with the work the church is doing to care for victims of human trafficking then we are representing the Kingdom well.
As Christians, how can we become better at shining a light and simultaneously giving off a sweet fragrance?