Thursday, April 15, 2010

Shining Your Light

As a follow-up to my last post “How Should We Live?” I thought that I should briefly clarify something that became apparent not only after the blog post but after the message that the post was based upon. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16). We are to shine the light of Christ that has shown on us. Like Moses coming down from the mountain, after spending time with the Lord, we should shine with a light that He gives us, not one that comes through our own strength or power.

The challenge in this comes especially in the times that we don’t feel the capacity or desire to shine that light. Difficulties arise in our lives, we enter into crises of faith, and we begin to doubt whether or not God is really listening to us when we pray. But, despite what anyone might tell you, these doubts and crises are not abnormal. Job went through a difficult time and he was considered by God to be the most upright person on the face of the earth. The most upright person, in the opinion of the One who had created him, experienced doubt and frustration, can we give ourselves enough grace to allow for those same things?

When people who are not followers of Christ look at so-called “Christians” they are not turned off so much by the things that we say, but more at the inconsistency between the way that we live and the things that we say. We promote the family and criticize homosexual marriage, all the while our heterosexual marriages are falling apart. We criticize a president who pushes his agenda, all the while promoting candidates who would be doing the very same thing should they have been in office (albeit we would have agreed with their policies). I’m not promoting an anything goes agenda, but I am promoting a call to consistency.

People do not have to look very far in this world to find people who are disingenuous. There are fakes everywhere and a lot of the people that our society raises to superstar status are among them. There needs to be a place where people can go and know that there is genuineness and authenticity. There needs to be a place where people can go and say, “Here’s me, flaws and all!” and know that people will still embrace them. It doesn’t mean that they agree with them always, but it does mean that they are willing to extend a loving hand to offer assistance.

Recently, a well-known contemporary Christian artist who had taken a number of years out of the spotlight “came out” in an interview with a Christian magazine. This artist is bracing for the oncoming storm of criticism that will inevitably come from within the church. As an organization and institution that traditionally “shoots their wounded,” I can’t say that I blame the person for bracing themselves. I also can’t say that I condone the lifestyle that this person has chosen to embrace. To me, it’s no different than me embracing a lifestyle of infidelity and unfaithfulness. It’s one thing to say, “I’m a sinner and I need help and want to change” and another thing to say, “I’m a sinner, take me or leave me just as I am.” If were involved in an extramarital affair, I wouldn’t want someone to avoid confrontation because they felt that they would be judging me or because they had sin in their lives. At the same time, I would hope that whoever felt called to confront me would have a relationship with me, enough to feel comfortable coming to me to talk about my lifestyle.

Christians are not perfect, although we are called to be perfect, as Christ is perfect. The process of sanctification is exactly that, a process, it takes time. We will not “arrive” overnight (though there are occasions when God may supernaturally deliver us). The sooner that we acknowledge our imperfection and sin to a world that sees us as hypocrites, the sooner our light will shine more effectively.

There will be times that we will not feel like shining. There will be times that we don’t feel strong enough, smart enough, clean enough, or holy enough, but we are not the ones who are shining, it is Christ within us that shines. The light of Christ shining within us needs to bring about transformation and change that causes authenticity. The world needs to be able to look at the church and say, “Although I don’t agree with them, they are consistently living the message that they preach.” Authenticity is risky, and it can hurt, but the suffering that we might face pales in comparison to what Christ endured on behalf of creation for our sin.

How should we live? Consistently. If we live any less than consistent lives, we might as well shut the doors of our churches, because we will never shine the light of Christ when our lives and our message don’t match. May we all shine the light of Christ, in His strength and His power, and may we live lives that are consistent with the life God calls us to and the message that we preach.

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