Everywhere you turn, it seems like darkness is enveloping the light. Consider what has been happening within the church of America throughout these crazy, hazy days of summer.
The darkness of abuse & sexual scandal in the church.
Pastors denying indiscretions. Insurmountable evidence. Rampant deceit to the core. In addition to the #MeToo movement, there is the #Churchtoo movement - which just breaks my heart. I've watched many friends on both sides of the carnage at Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. I have friends in Chicago at Willow that have tried to believe the best because that's what you're supposed to do with your pastor. Closer to home, I'm grieved at what I've just read from friends within Chattanooga churches and ministries this past week as well, speaking of this darkness that has found a place to fester. I'm grieved, too, that abuse is apart of our story.
My brothers and sisters, this should not be so.
The darkness of divisive politics.
There has always been the struggle of the Word of God and the rule of man. Yet, the divisive rhetoric of politics on both the street corner and within the pulpits and pews of churches in America is at a boiling point. Nowhere has it been as eloquently expressed as Stephanie McCrummen's Washington Post piece called God, Trump, and the Meaning of Morality in America. From the Washington Post to a conversation in my very own barbershop - "Luca, why did y'all (speaking of evangelicals) rail so hard on Obama's character, but you pass over Trump’s? Why was character such a big thing with Bill Clinton," a non-Christian friend from the barber shop observed, "but it seems as if your Bible friends don't care about character anymore?"
My brothers and sisters, this should not be so.
The darkness of apathy and indifference.
As I've been reading through the Old Testament book of Judges over the past few weeks, I'm struck by the indifference to the Word of God of one generation. This apathy led to anarchy within a short time frame - every man doing what was right in their own eyes. Fast forward a few years, the syncretism - the attempt to mix God's ways with culture - led to absolute apostasy. Yes, in the culture out there, but also within the nation of Israel in Judges.
The Book of Judges is a dire warning for us.
Yes, it grieves me that it takes place in the culture, but even more so within the communities of faith..
Beyond these three themes over the past few weeks, there are many others. Many more weighty matters in our city, our church, and our family.
It has been a wearying few weeks. I am weary.
It seems that the Lord is allowing me to lament the darkness that I see around me. Today, as I was thinking about some of the above, I read Proverbs 6. Long ago, a mentor of mine encouraged me to read the corresponding Proverb with the day of the week that it was. Since today is August 6th, I read Proverbs 6. Consider several of these that directly spoke to some of the situations above:
12 A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech,
13 winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger,
14 with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord;
15 therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.
Or how about these verses from later on in the chapter:
27 Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?
28 Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?
32 He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself.
33 He will get wounds and dishonor,
and his disgrace will not be wiped away.
The weightiness continued throughout the day. I was on my way home from work when I turned on our local NPR station. I heard some deep soul on my radio. I came into the conversation half-way through a piece, but I got the message loud and clear as I heard a song that I sang to my kids the night before as I put them to bed. Yes, on NPR I heard the tune - "This Little Light of Mine" ringing loud and clear through the airways. I had to pull over as I finished listening and began to pray.
You see, it's hard to shine the light. Often, I think about why Jesus said, "You are the light of the world" and not "You have the light of the world" in the Sermon on the Mount. Our identity as light is only because of the true light, Jesus, and His Spirit live and shine through us. The Spirit of God causes the child of God to walk as children of light. Check out this piece from NPR's This American Anthem. For some reason, embedding the NPR link here made my whole blog shut down - so I put a direct link instead.
I hope you enjoy this piece from NPR as much as I did. I hope, Christian, that it causes you to expectantly push back the veil of darkness with the hope of the light of Christ. In defiance of the darkness, I pray that the light of Christ helps you to use this freedom song to speak the freedom that is ours in Christ. Seriously, listen to the piece - at one point a civil rights activist shares, "It might seem odd to call such an innocent-sounding song defiant. But that's exactly how blues singer Bettie Mae Fikes says she felt when creating her classic version of "This Little Light of Mine" in 1963. She improvised the lyrics after a protest in which several of her friends had been attacked. "And I'm thinking, 'How is the light [going to] shine when they're trying to put our lights out?'" Fikes says. "So everybody was taking verses — and in order to come in, I just went into the slave call." The result was a long, melismatic vocal run that turned into verses where she named specific officials — such as the former sheriff of Selma, Ala."I just started adding our oppressors in the song: 'Tell Jim Clark, I'm gonna let it shine,' " Fikes says. "And as I added my oppressors, other people in the audience began to shout out: 'Tell the KKK!' "Tell our president!' It was like being free."
The resistance of the light.
The light that defies the darkness.
The light that is now our identity, child of God-child of the light, because of Christ. Maybe you'll speak to some things in your life, remembering that you're the light of the world.
Announce to abuse, "I'm going to let it shine."
Proclaim to sexual sin, "I'm going to let it shine."
Remind politicians that tweet, "I'm going to let it shine!"
Then stop, look, and listen and hear the voices and actions of countless other children of light. Look up, Christian. Listen, child of God. Maybe, as it was for me in what seems like the middle of the night, Jesus will remind you of the hope in the night. That's what light does.