The Light of Christ In The Face of Man
There is an anonymous poem entitled, "God Shows In Your Face," and one of the stanzas goes like this: "You don’t have to tell how you live each day. / You don’t have to say if you work or you play. / A tried, true barometer serves in the place, / However you live, it will show in your face." Without a doubt, I think this is what Jesus meant when he said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they will see your good works, and glorify your Father who art in Heaven." [Matt. 5:16]
One of the most amazing stories of the Bible is recorded when Jesus took Peter, James, and John up onto a high mountain to pray. These favorite disciples reported that Jesus was "transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light." [Matt. 17:2] Actually, this is much the same thing that happened to Moses when he received the Ten Commandments. He returned and his face shone so brightly that he had to place a veil over his face when he was with his people. [Exodus 34:35]
We really do not know too much about light. Scientists say that it is an electromagnetic phenomenon. But then, freely admit that they don’t really know what it is. They know some things about it. They have harnessed it for our use. They know pretty much what it does, but that’s about all. Well, in a sense, even as we do not know much about light, neither do we know much about "the Christ." I refer not to the person, Jesus, but to the Illumining Principle in man—the "Christ in you, the hope of glory." [Colossians 1:27] There is a great confusion about this term, "Christ." But, we see the "Light of Christ," the love and joy and radiance, in the faces of people. Also, within the very nature of humankind, every person, there is a stored-up "Substance of Christ"—something like the coal that is stored-up in the earth, which may be released to illumine the face, and light the way, of man.
The Apostle Paul says, "…stir up the gift of God, which is in thee…." [2 Tim. 1:16] Wasn’t this really the mission of Jesus—to help all persons to discover the Light of Christ within themselves, and to let it shine? Remember, when we talk about "the Christ," we are not talking about Jesus. We are talking about that within every person that Jesus discovered in himself—the Divine Source, the Flow, the Innate Oneness with God.
This statement has often been used (but it was Oliver Wendell Holmes, I believe, who coined the phrase): "It is better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness." There is so much darkness in the world—fear, ignorance, prejudice, hatred, and war. And, there are those who stand cursing the darkness, inadvertently, creating more darkness. But, every person has something of the stuff of which Light is made, in the hidden man within him. And so, Jesus says, "Let your Light shine…." [Matt. 5:16]
One of the really heartwarming stories coming out of the darkness of Nazi terrorism, in the Second World War is the story of Philippe Vernier, who was subject to just about every form of indignity because he was a man of peace. They placed him in a filthy prison without cause. They starved his fine family. An American officer, who called on him afterwards, reported that the visit with this man—this luminous soul—was the high-water mark of his life. And, that this gentleman was incorrigibly Christian. Here are some words from a letter in Vernier’s hand, which I think are worthy of repetition. He says: "If you are a disciple of the Master, it is up to you to illumine the earth. You do not have to groan over everything the world lacks. You are there to bring it what it needs. There, where reign hatred, malice, and discord, you will put love, pardon, and peace. For lying, you will bring truth; for despair, hope; for doubt, faith; there, where is sadness, you will give joy. If you are in the smallest degree the servant of God, all these virtues of Light you will carry with you. Do not be frightened by a mission so vast. It is not really you who are charged with the fulfillment of it. You are only the torchbearer. The fire, even when it burns within you—even when it burns you—is never lit by you. It uses you as it uses the oil of the lamp. You hold it, feed it, and carry it around. But, it is the fire that works—that gives light to the world…and to yourself, at the same time. Do not be the clogged lantern that chokes and smothers the light—the lamp, timid or ashamed, hidden under a bushel. Flame up and shine before men! Lift high the fire of God!" A beautiful thought from Philippe Vernier.
It is very important to all of us (certainly to the world about us) that we "flame up and shine," that we let our Light shine, rather than hiding our lamp under a bushel of fear, worry, prejudice, bitterness, and discouragement. Yet, it is so important that we let our Light shine!
Maybe you have heard it said that a smile is the most contagious thing in the world. A person walking down the street smiling, in the morning, will leave an endless chain of smiling faces behind him or her—a veritable "mile of smiles."
Now, I have a confession to make at this point: I have a strong distaste for pictures of Jesus. I almost hesitate to confess that. And, do you know why? Because the faces [of Jesus in the paintings] are always so serious and grim and pained. And somehow, to me, Jesus would be the epitome of joy, relaxation, ease, and friendliness. His face, I believe, would have a perpetual smile. For when the Light of Truth touches the face of man, a smile is the result. How could it be otherwise? So, the picture that satisfies me will be a face that smiles—a face that reflects joy and peace and poise. Although, perhaps, I must admit that, probably, no picture will ever satisfy me, because I want the privilege of creating that picture in my own imagination.
We have a tremendous job: to cultivate and keep the Light of Christ within our face. I can remember a Sunday School teacher, many years ago, telling us that each of us was like a lighthouse keeper: We had a perpetual job of keeping the Light trim and burning—the Light of God within us. And, she pointed out the words of First John: "He that loveth his brother abideth in the light." [1 John 2:10] "He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness…. [1 John 2:9]
Have you ever heard the story of "The Magic Mask"? A great and powerful ruler once ruled over a great domain. He was respected and feared by everyone. But, he was not loved. Each year he’d grow more efficient, hard, and cruel, as the ugly lines deepened in his face. On a tour of his country, one day, he saw a surprisingly beautiful girl; and he soon found himself deeply in love with her. So, he decided to ask her to become his wife. He put on his lordly robes, and, before setting out for her home, he stopped before a mirror to survey his grand appearance. And what he saw appalled him, for his face was so hard and cruel that he knew he would only frighten the sensitive maiden. So, he sent for a magician; and he asked him to make a mask of the thinnest wax that would follow every one of his own features…except, that it must look kind and loving. The artist agreed, on one condition: that the great lord should pray daily to the God of Love, that he should think only kind thoughts, and be sympathetic and friendly and helpful to all his subjects. Otherwise, the mask would break, and his cause would be lost. So, the great lord agreed to all of this, and the magic mask was made.
All of his subjects wondered at the miraculous change in him. The lovely girl became his wife, and he enjoyed a remarkable period of peace and prosperity. Gentleness and thoughtfulness became habitual with him. But, with these qualities came honesty and goodness. So, his conscience began to bother him, because the mask actually made him a deceiver. So, finally, he could bear it no longer. He begged the magician to remove the mask at once. And the man said, "If I do, I can never make you another; and you must wear your own face as long as you live!" And the king said, "Better so than to deceive one I love. Take it off!"
So, the mask was removed. And, the lord, with fear in his heart, looked at his reflection in a mirror. And, imagine his surprise and joy at seeing that all the ugly lines were gone—that his face had actually taken on the pleasing likeness of the mask that he had worn so long. His changed thoughts had changed his face, as well as his life.
This is really the goal of all of us, as we practice Spiritual Principles and seek to fulfill Divine Laws—to be a Light bearer rather than a gloom caster, to stir up the gift of God within us and let our Light shine. And the interesting thing is, that when we do this, when we let the Light shine in our face, from within-out, softening the lines of our features, making us gentle and generous, and putting smiles—sincere, wonderful, radiant smiles—on our faces, that actually we change our whole life! And, to a large extent, we become a part of an outreaching, radiant process that changes the world.
So, as the man said, "Flame up and shine!" And as Jesus said, "Let your light shine." As you go forth in this day, I hope you will think a little about this. There is a magic mask that you can wear. It will soften your face, and it will give you a new radiance that will actually have a tremendous influence on what you do. If you are a salesperson, it will help you to make contacts. If you work in an office, it will give you a sense of rapport with those around you. And, when you come home in the evening, it will cause your family and your children—your wife, your loved ones—to respond to you with a respect that you may have never known before—all because, from the inside-out, you are letting the glow of the real Spirit within you express. It will change your life. And, you will be a part of a changing of the life of the world around you.
"Flame up and shine!" "Let your Light shine!" And, if you don’t feel like it, then, just get still for a few minutes or take a walk out of doors—get away from the commotion and the tension of things around you. Maybe, just sit on a park bench and, kind of, reflect for a moment on this idea that you are a part of the tremendous Illumining Process of the Universe—like a star that shines or, if you will, a Son of God. And, I like that phrase, "Son of God," because, in a sense, it could be s-u-n instead of s-o-n. "I am a Sun of God. I’m a little Sun, a little star, a little radiance." Or, as the wisdom came to George Washington in the early days of our country—he referred to it as, "The little Celestial Spark of Fire that one may desecrate, but never quite lose." It is within you. It is within us all. It is the Light of Christ. "Flame up and shine!" "Let your Light shine!"
© Eric Butterworth