FOCUS Candles in the daylight
by Lt. Amanda Reardon –
You are the light of the world…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:14,16 (NIV)
Of all the methods that God could have chosen to share his gospel of love and reconciliation, he chose to light candles. One by one he lights them, that each small flame might blaze boldly against the darkness, shedding its circle of light within its limited arena. Some flames burn tall and hot, practically unwavering. They shed a sure light. Other flames flicker and wink, each strong breeze threatening to extinguish. Often, such flames grow stronger over time; indeed, most of the tall flames were once unpredictable themselves.
Each and every flame is intended to dispel the dark ignorance Satan has lain across the earth, the ignorance that causes people to stumble as they grope in their blinded state for life’s highest path. But one must wonder about the usefulness of a candle that burns in the broad daylight. Is it possible for such a candle to do its duty, to replace the darkness that causes confusion with the light that reveals direction? What good is a candle unless it has darkness to combat?
Many of us spend too much time in the light. We rarely even visit the darkness! We lock ourselves in what some have called “Christian ghettoes,” guaranteeing ourselves as little contact as possible with the rest of the world, and making ourselves impotent to our purpose on this earth.
Certainly our confidants should be believers (Psalm 1:1), and absolutely we should discipline ourselves to conversation (Ephesians 5:4) and activities (Romans 8:13) that honor Christ. But if we are to offer light to this world, we need to encounter people regularly who still find themselves in darkness! It would be inappropriate to look upon these people as though they were some sort of project, feigning to be friends with them in order to win converts.
Ultimately, our goal is to lead them to Christ, but we must begin by honestly loving people and investing ourselves in them. Our model for the task is Jesus himself. He was decried by religious leaders for cavorting with sinners. Indeed, he did embrace the less-than-devout with unquestioned compassion and sincerity. Yet did he himself need to sin in order to do so? Did others drag him down, or did he lift them up?
Here is a fairly common scenario: A woman is active in her church. She has a job in a Christian workplace. She socializes with church friends, or Christians from work. Her children go to Christian school, and she has met many fine Christian parents through the school. It is a pleasant, comfortable life. But everyone she knows seems to be standing in the direct sunlight of God’s grace. Can anyone see her candle burning?
Those whose lives mimic this woman’s are certainly not guilty of any wrongdoing. But they will need to search harder than others to find darkness to expel. Neighborhoods are wonderful places to start. Befriending one’s neighbors (a fading tradition) frequently opens the door for sharing faith. Many seeds are also planted when Christians find themselves in temporary one-to-one situations with others, like a hairdresser or the passenger in the next seat on the plane. We must be proactive witnesses, creating opportunities to share our faith–like beginning a relationship with the Little League coach and his family by inviting them for dinner. Then again, sometimes opportunity comes knocking–perhaps in the form of Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormon missionaries. (Don’t hide behind your curtain. These lost souls need Christ too, and God sent them to your very door.)
The bottom line is this: Christian circles are appropriate, Christian activity is good. But if we stop there, we have lost our usefulness in the expansion of the kingdom. We must reach out of our “comfort zone” and do what we were meant to do, be who we were meant to be, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
I believe that if God did not have a crucial task for us to complete, he would snatch us up to heaven the moment we become believers, so we could enjoy unhindered fellowship with him. But he does not do that. He leaves us here. That is because, as the old song says, “Jesus bids us shine with a clear, pure light.”
Now find your small corner and glow, Christian, glow.