“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
“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.
William Borden (1887-1913) was the heir to the Borden Dairy Estate. When he graduated from high school at the age of 16, his parents sent him on a trip around the world. But his parents did not anticipate what would happen. As William traveled through parts of Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, the Lord gave him an increasing burden for the lost and dying people he encountered. Eventually, the teenage millionaire wrote home to his parents: “I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.” A friend was shocked that William would choose to “throw himself away as a missionary,” but he was not deterred. In preparation for the mission field, Borden attended Yale University and Princeton Theological Seminary. He longed to become a missionary to Muslims in China, so he went to Egypt to focus on language study before going to China. While he was studying in Cairo, he contracted spinal meningitis and died in Egypt at the age of 25.
The world might call the story of William Borden a tragic loss. I imagine the Lord would call it a glorious gain. Etched into Borden’s tombstone in the American Cemetery in Cairo are these words: “Apart from faith in Christ there is no explanation for such a life.” When people saw William Borden, they really saw the light of Christ shining in Him. By God’s grace, William’s life begs the question: “Why would he do that when he could do this?”
In some way, every Christian life should beg the question. When Peter exhorts us to always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks us for the reason for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15), he assumes that we will be different…and that people will be asking why. Being close to Jesus Christ changes people, and that change was evident in Peter after Pentecost. In Acts 4:13 we read, “Now when [the Jewish leaders] saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Apart from faith in (and proximity to) Jesus, people couldn’t explain how Peter was living. Do our lives beg the question?
William Borden and Peter weren’t trying to be the light of the world. Through their union with Jesus, they were the light of the world. Their roots were deep in Him, and the fruits were growing for all to see. We don’t need to try to shine brighter; in Him, we are the light of the world. As we abide in Jesus, the light won’t be hidden; and as we live in Him, our lives will beg the question. When the questions come, people may focus on WHAT they see in us, but that is the opportunity to tell them WHO makes us different.
Brothers and sisters, don’t forget the joyful privilege of being the light of the world. No, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”