Light Without Sight?

by Lim Siong Guan

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life….. Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (John 3:16-21)

We learn several things concerning light in this passage. Light has come into the world.

Men loved darkness instead of light. Everyone who does evil hates the light … for fear that his deeds will be exposed. Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light.

In John 8:12: “… Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Darkness is one of those things that have to be defined in the negative - darkness is the absence of light. Where there is light, there is no darkness.

What have we learnt so far?
• Jesus is the light of the world.
• Jesus, the light, has come into the world.
• Everyone who does evil hates the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
• Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light.
• Whoever follows Jesus will never walk in darkness.
• Light exposes; darkness conceals.

In John 9:1-25, we read about Jesus healing the blind man. “As (Jesus) went along, he saw a man blind from birth… While I am in the world, I am the light of the world" … (Jesus) spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. "Go," He told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.… the Pharisees … asked him how he had received his sight. "He put mud on my eyes," the man replied, "and I washed, and now I see." A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. He replied, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!"

What have we further learnt?
• Jesus is the light of the world while He is in the world.
• If you are blind, you cannot see even though the light is around you.
• Darkness is when there is no light, or when there is light but the eyes are shut.

In John 12:35: Jesus told (the crowd), "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light."

This offers the following further revelation.
• Jesus’ time in the world was only temporary.
• Jesus is the light of the world while He is in the world.

Being Light of the World

The question - is the world left in darkness after Jesus left the world to enter into the presence of God?

Straight after the Beatitudes, in Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said: "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Jesus refers almost interchangeably to light and lamp.

Revelation 1:12 helps to enlighten us about the idea of lamps. “I (John) turned round to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man … The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

I like to sum up the conclusions as follows:
• Jesus is the light of the world while He is in the world.
• Jesus is no longer physically in the world.
• But the light is still around.
• (We) are the light of the world.
• But we are not shining our own light. “let your light shine before men, that they may see your
good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” – obviously they are deeds of Jesus done through us. We are more like lampstands holding Jesus the light, rather than our own origin of light.
• Light exposes; darkness conceals.
• Everyone who does evil hates the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
• Darkness is when there is no light, or when there is light but the eyes are shut.

How do we measure up? Are we are the light? Do we expose evil by our presence? Or do we not even see evil ourselves, because our eyes are closed?

I would like to take these questions at two levels. First, at the personal level with respect to those we interact with; and second, at a more societal level, in our role as light for the society we are in.

Measuring Up at Personal Level

How much are we light to those around us? This is not too difficult to test.
• Will people stop lewd jokes or vulgar language in our presence?
• Will we be gossips, play politics, encourage disorder, and so on. As Paul the Apostle wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:20: “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarrelling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.”
• Are we idle? Again as Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 3:11: “We hear that some among you are
idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies.”
• Do we build up faith for the weak, offer hope for the desperate, provide love for the lonely. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
• As Paul wrote in Galatians 5:19-23: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. …But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
• Do we need to be perfect? No. No one is perfect. But we are expected to be blameless. As Paul wrote in Philippians 2:14-15: “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.”

These are tall, tough demands. As someone has said, “The Christian life is not difficult. It is impossible”. We cannot live the Christian life. The Christian life can only be Christ living in me.
But one thing I have discovered - for many years, I was a quiet Christian. I felt if I tried to be obedient to Christ and be “good” in the world’s reckoning that was all that was expected. But there were two problems with this approach.

The first is that our role in the world is to bring people to Christ. If people do not know I am what I am because of Christ, how will they know, learn and think about Christ. As Jesus said (Matthew 5:16): “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

The second is that proclaiming ourselves as Christians before others itself invokes discipline and constrains us in our behaviour, so that we are the more likely to persevere in our faith and live as we proclaim. There is a very important principle involved here. When we declare to the people around us that we have a God according to the proclamation in the Bible, God has stakes in our lives to protect His name. So God is going to work on us so that we will not bring down His name.

My experience has been that life becomes, from one point of view, easier once it is clear I am a Christian and I am serious about living and behaving as a Christian. Of course, some could reject and avoid me, and probably, I am also not considered for certain assignments on account of it but is that loss or gain?

Measuring Up at Societal Level

But we must seek to be light beyond just the personal and the immediate around us, to recognise also our wider responsibility to society. The world is not just our family and friends and office colleagues, it is the world – the society, the community, the country also.

Things are changing in Singapore. People are much better educated than a generation ago, much more self-confident, much more demanding of government and of fellow citizens By and large, people have enough (for some, too much) food on the table, clothes to wear, not just a roof over their heads but homes they own. It is not surprising, going by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, that there is the increasing demand to be allowed to chase their dreams, make their own decisions, pursue their own interests; and it should not be surprising to see more widespread selfishness, and uncaring self-interest.

How is the government reacting to this? Certainly, it is doing its best to make the best possible future for Singapore, planning, anticipating, engaging, connecting and mobilising.

What is the Christian’s role in this? Just leave the government alone, and ask very strongly that the government leave you alone?
God created two institutions to maintain order in the world. One is marriage, which is why Christians must have clear views about the role of marriage and family and not be driven by the views and inclinations of the world.

The second institution is government. As Paul wrote in Romans 13:1-4: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”

Where we can help the government do its job better, we should. We are seeing increasing trends of social relaxation on the part of government in Singapore, though never to the point of risking any loss in public order and security. It is also a government, which increasingly is seeking the views of the public, willing to listen and go along if that will not risk stability and the public good. In this kind of situation, the Christian would be irresponsible if he remains silent and passive and allows everyone else to define the direction and development of Singapore.

The Christian must listen to the voice of his conscience, and speak out. If you think abortion is wrong, say so, explain why and be in active conversation. If you think having a casino is bad, express your views, not as an act of umbrage and defiance, but as a contribution to public debate on the good and the right. If you are to be the light of the world, you have the responsibility to be light for Singapore – so shine, see, speak and solve. Do not allow the agenda to be captured by others because of your silence.

But bear in mind always that this is responsible participation in a debate to help bring about good decisions; it is never argument for argument’s sake. Christians must be clear in their beliefs and convictions, and if the government should decide to go a particular direction, which you did not think good, you should not be moping around, complaining, criticising but doing nothing. For example, our laws allow abortion. If you believe abortion is wrong, then do something about it if you cannot change the law, e.g. help mothers choose not to abort, offer them the emotional and financial help, friends and shelter, they need.


You are the light of the world. The world has no reason to be in the dark. Share the gospel. Show the way. Set the example in your personal lives with those around you at home and at work. Make your part, do your part in being a light to the wider society: argue for the good and right, speak out against the bad and wrong, always be willing to help, be neither armchair critic nor sleeping soul, but be active Christians for the sake of society and the good of all people.

This message was given by Mr Lim Siong Guan (Head of Civil Service, who spoke in his personal capacity as a Christian) at the GCF Annual Dinner 29 October 2004 at Singapore Swimming Club.