When I was growing up outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a favorite Christmas activity was going to the John Wanamaker store in center city. My grandmother would travel by train to be with us for the holiday, and we would spend one full day of the trip at Wanamaker’s looking at the beautiful decorations, watching the magnificent pipe organ and light show in the main court, eating an elegant lunch at the Crystal Tea Room, and shopping for “special things.” One such special thing was beautiful stationary that was located in an upper-level department. As a child, I marveled that writing paper and envelopes had their own store! I have fond memories of my grandmother running her fingers over the paper and holding final selections up to the light. “What are you looking for, Grandma?” I asked. “The printer’s watermark,” she replied. “The finest linen stationary can always be proved by it’s watermark.” Pressed into the paper during the manufacturing process, each watermark identifies the paper mill’s trademark so that the maker is clearly revealed when held up to the light.
So it is with people. When you hold us up to the light of Christ, you should be able to see the watermark of our baptisms shining through our words, actions, thoughts, and deeds.
This was the subject of Paul’s cautionary letter to the Corinthians. We can tell from the very first verse that he is getting fed up with his church and is warning them that his third visit will bring his fatherly correction and discipline if they don’t shape up quickly. There is also a tone of frustration as he rebukes them for questioning his credentials when theirs are certainly in jeopardy. How dare they demand proof that Christ speaks through him when they have demonstrated that they aren’t listening anyway?
2 Corinthians 13:1-10 (Common English Bible)
This is the third time that I’m coming to visit you. Every matter is settled on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 2 When I was with you on my second visit, I already warned those who continued to sin. Now I’m repeating that warning to all the rest of you while I’m at a safe distance: if I come again, I won’t spare anyone. 3 Since you are demanding proof that Christ speaks through me, Christ isn’t weak in dealing with you but shows his power among you. 4 Certainly he was crucified because of weakness, but he lives by the power of God. Certainly we also are weak in him, but we will live together with him, because of God’s power that is directed toward you.
5 Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Don’t you understand that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless, of course, you fail the test.6 But I hope that you will realize that we don’t fail the test. 7 We pray to God that you don’t do anything wrong, not because we want to appear to pass the test but so that you might do the right thing, even if we appear to fail.
8 We can’t do anything against the truth but only to help the truth. 9 We are happy when we are weak but you are strong. We pray for this: that you will be made complete. 10 This is why I’m writing these things while I’m away. I’m writing so that I won’t need to act harshly when I’m with you by using the authority that the Lord gave me. He gave it to me so that I could build you up, not tear you down.
“Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (verse 5). This admonition to the Corinthians should not go unnoticed by us today. We are also to test ourselves against the light and see how we measure up. The effectiveness of our witness to the world is dependent on whether or not people can see Jesus in us. If saving the world was dependent on the light of Christ in us, would we turn people’s hearts toward Jesus?
Test yourself. Test your intentions, your actions, your grasp of Scripture, your service to the Lord, and the veracity of what you say versus what you do. As Paul reminds us in Romans 12:2, “Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is … what is good and pleasing and mature” (Common English Bible). Can you pass Paul’s test?
The Light of the Lord by Michelle Robertson