“That they may be one, As I and the Father are one” expounded Jesus in John 17 before his ultimate crucifixion and death. We have woken up into a strange new normal in our world. We went from having plans, going places without thinking and smiling to the various people walking down our city streets to avoiding people, avoiding eye contact and unable to read the expressions on peoples faces. When we tell our children to be careful to remain 6 feet away from any oncoming strangers on sidewalks, our children make an obvious wide 6-foot round circle shuffle around oncoming strangers. I cannot but feel a feeling of sadness when I see children avoiding human contact like it is something normal. Even before the advent of COVID, many were already dealing with terrible loneliness, loss of community and a sense of purpose. In the July 2020 National Geographic magazine, an article states: “We are not made for this new normal. In times of peril, as humans our deepest human impulse is to draw closer to one another, however this new fight tells us we cannot.” When God said in the Garden of Eden that it is not good for man to be alone, are we being one in purpose as a church community during this difficult time? There are many beliefs, identities and ways of viewing this world, however as a church community we must be able to boldly say that our identity is in Christ and nothing else.
We are called to be lights in a dark place; light is the opposite of dark – a city on a hill shining within the children of light not unlike fireflies roaming in the dark of night. Sometimes in the quite whispers of the night in a city full of lights, fireflies are hard to see because there is too much light. Nonetheless, if you watch carefully, even in the light of the city, you can see them shining in the bushes, reminding us of God’s light. A fight for true light when all you can see is dark light engulfing the firefly’s lovely light. But he resists peacefully. Can we imagine being like fireflies? There is so much information today. Much of it is good, but there is plenty that is not. As Christians, we are in the world but called to be separate which includes being able to critically analyze properly the vast information, recognize the politics and remain neutral while the world battles amongst themselves. Sometimes the fireflies lose their way, however they somehow manage to return to their original purpose and find other lights true to their peaceful cause.
The world is scary and the volatile environment of fear and anger bring out often the worst of humanity. When God declared man in His image, I wonder how far we have fallen from that image and God’s people also get caught up in the intensity of choosing sides and causing division, and our minds veer away from Christ. Our citizenship is in heaven and we must bear witness of that citizenship that glorifies God. As representatives of Christ in the world, we are called to be that city on a hill, blameless. When Paul writes as “Christ is ministered to the world,” (2 cor 6:3-10) he’s saying there’s another way other than hate or anger. Peace and non-jugdmental love towards others is possible, but sadly our own carnal desires unknowingly feed the god of this world (2 cor 4:1-4) who would rather keep us all in bondage rather than allow us to renounce our worldly desires in the hope a new heaven and new earth free of suffering and death. As Christians, we too often fall victim to theses desires in the way of getting caught up in the world’s politics in the hopes that it holds the solution to all suffering. When Paul says to do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself (Phillippians 2:3), we must really pursue humility in our actions and speech, and search out the true meaning of empathy. When someone can truly feel the pain of another member in the community and beyond, I believe these are real signs that a person is genuine. If empathy and humility are not evidence amongst those who call themselves Christians, we might as well shoot ourselves in the foot when it comes to witnessing to those who are outside the church. Nonetheless, humility begins with the self and we must never forget to keep our eyes on Christ’s example. In this world of constant disinformation, twisting of words and those who tarnish Christ’s image, we must be able to look to Christ’s example in order to filter, analyze and ultimately forgive those who hurt us.
Too often, the world enjoys shamming methods of past sins and too often those of malicious character abuse the Christian ideal of love and forgiveness even among those who call themselves brethren. Can we call the church a safe place? Can we honestly voice our struggles openly without fear of judgment from others in our Christian community? In the world, the church should be that safe place, that “hiding place” (Psalm 32:7) and yet, I have yet to find a truly safe church free of judgment, and anger. I have often found fear and paranoia of the unknown. A sense of critical thinking and honest discussion seems next to impossible within many church circles. Sadly, I have often found secular circles more open and even showing greater love and empathy for fellow human beings than the church at times. How is this possible? As the western world becomes more and more secular, the innate human desire innate in all of us continues to desire community. When the church fails to be that “hiding place” of safety, humility and love, people will continue to search out a sense of belonging and purpose elsewhere. Obviously, there are lines that must not be crossed morally and doctrinally speaking which may require one to leave traditions and communities because Christ’s ways are not the ways of the world. And yet, when our reactions to the world’s criticisms of Christians are made in a peaceful and loving way, we make a stand as Christ’s ministers in the world proclaiming that there’s another way.
There is no perfect Christian community and there are many who make wrong choices, which sadly affect everyone who say they belong to Christ. Nonetheless, we must embrace those sins made by others in Christ’s name but never become humiliated. As Christ said, it is “by their fruits” you shall be made known (Matthew 7:16). Actions speak a thousand words. It’s not by good doctrine (although it is helpful) that leads people to Christ. It’s how we are a changed people individually which leads to a changed community. We must recognize we are all capable of making bad choices and that it’s more heroic to say, “I’m sorry” than to make the appearance that we have got everything under control. Can we wildly live every day embracing the unknown knowing that we have Jesus who knew no sin, but was tempted in every way like us? We are not defined by our past, however we must learn from our past in so far as how it positively influences the present and the future in order to find a solution. If there are not any solutions to past problems that do not include forgiveness of self and others, we must say good-bye to this sort of thinking, otherwise, we will become unequally yoked with the world (2 Corinthians 6:14). The world under Satan’s influence resists forgiveness and wants to continuously smear past sins endlessly. It is not useful and it is actually detrimental to everyone. Victimization leaves victims in an endless state of stagnation, with no hope in sight. Solution focused, future focused must be our goal, as Paul says “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13).
Therefore, our identity, our citizenship is in Christ. No matter our past, our bad choices or even the choices of others that tarnish our image, can we honestly say that we follow Christ’s example of humility, love and peace? We must remember that the world will not change. The world’s politics has continuously swung on a pendulum from left to right since the beginning of civilization, and the Christian walk is one of getting oneself off of the pendulum completely. Jesus never told us to change the world, but he did say we must change ourselves first before we can ever hope to change or help those around us in the world. Our actions speak a thousand words – man’s politics will forever disappoint and yet in Christ, we can overcome these uncertain times. Be the firefly in the dark!