“15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (Eph. 4:15 NIV)
This is, barring something newsworthy to someone other than myself, our last installment from this blog’s series I’ve loosely titled “Reflections from the Water Tower”. We’ll go on to other things next week.
But if you’ve been following this blog you’ll know much of this came out of the controversy surrounding a group known as the Freedom From Religion Foundation asking, by which I mean petulantly demanding, that the town of Wilmore Kentucky remove the lighted cross from its water tower. The details of this have been chronicled in earlier blogs, so I’d encourage you to go back and reared hose if you want further information. I will say this. As a rule of thumb anytime an organization has the name Freedom From something, you can rest assured they want to take someone else’s freedom away.
This water tower, sitting on the Campus of Asbury University, is an important part of my life, and memories of living in Wilmore for seven years, through college and Seminary. You can tack on another three as I worked on my doctorate at Asbury. That lighted cross became a symbol of faith, of home and a beacon to be with cherished friends.
But more than anything else, it’s gotten me to think about the image of light in the Scriptures. After all Jesus calls us to be the light of the world. Truthfully Jesus doesn’t give us any options. He says we are the light of the world. In other words, there is no other light. It’s either us as the church, or nothing.
When we think of ourselves as the light of the world we usually look to all the pleasant aspects of light. It’s warm. It shows us the way, it protects us. It keeps us safe. All of which it true. The difficulty we find in the church is that this is not all that light is. And if we only pattern our faith after the pleasant side of being light we either lose our effectiveness or we are in for a rude surprise when the world reacts poorly to our being the light.
If we are to be the light of the world, we must also embrace the unpleasant part of light in a dark world. Light can be painful. Have you ever had someone turn on the lights in your bedroom in the middle of the night? It feels as if your retina’s are virtually being burned out of your head.
That’s because your eyes have adjusted to being in the dark. Imagine being in the dark is all you’ve ever known and suddenly a light is turned on. All you want is for the light to go off so you can go back to the darkness.
As the church, that’s the world we have been plunged into. All around you is a world, and people you care about, who live in darkness. And they like it. And when you are dropped into the middle of that darkness and are made the light of the world it hurts. The world will react poorly. They like the dark. They don’t want to see their sins exposed. They don’t want to see their pain. They don’t want to face their need for a savior or the possibility of an eternity without one. All they want is for you to turn off the light.
Paul admonishes us in our Scripture, not to turn off that light, but to be one who speaks the truth in love. That, of course, is where we often struggle. We either want to dim our light so we can get along with everyone, or shine it like a police officer at Make Out Point and expose everyone’s sins. Paul says we are to be the light in a world that loves darkness, but we are to do so in love.
How do we do this? Probably by spending more time being the light and less pointing out everyone else’s darkness. If we spent more time actually being the light,living a holy life, loving other’s as Jesus did we’d be much more effective.
Does that mean our light would be more palatable to the world around us? No. Remember Jesus did this (after all it’s His light that shines through us) and you know how it worked out for Him. The world will still react. The world loves to talk about hypocrites in the church. But truthfully they don’t mind hypocrites in the church. That actually makes them feel better about themselves. What they can’t stand is those who actually live out what they believe.
Being the light in love is painful. But if we don’t do it who will. Live out the light let it shine. Live out the truth. And do it in love.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><