I remember it like it was yesterday. I was at my old barber. This barber I had been going to since I could only remember, he was a God fearing man who loved muscle cars and the Looney Tunes. I grew up seeing this man monthly and as I grew older our conversations got deeper. He begin to share more and more about his faith and what he believes. Growing up I thought that was cool. We hit a homerun when it came to picking a barber because he’s a Christian. “There’s more like us.” I thought to myself.
One day when I was older though the conversations started to make more sense but there was an anger I found myself having when he talked about his faith. I think how he talked about his God and all really started to bother me is what led to my season of agnosticism and depression. It’s been years now since I went to him to cut my hair but even now those words he would say have begin to be a fuel for me to work harder, to prove him wrong almost. I cannot help it most days. “I thought you were a Christian so how can you say those words.” It has always been troubling to me.
By now you are wondering what did this barber say that struck such a huge chord of anger within me. To be honest it’s words I end up hearing all the time now when I’m around other Christians and it baffles me. See, so often I hear Christian men and women talk as if there is no hope for their neighbors around them. Many times it’s as if when we speak in humility about how lowly of a wretch we are, we elevate ourselves to think that it’s still not a miracle by God we are saved. We look around at our neighbors, one of whom you can hear the sounds of his wife screaming as he beats her. The other neighbor across the street from you has a white picket fence and waves every time they see you. But you know the issue. You know it is all a façade. That the family is more empty than the next house that is abandoned down the street. And speaking of that house. It is not abandoned actually because an old widow who the town hates to visit lives down there. But because no one pays attention to her, no one even comes by, the grass has grown up. The mail stopped coming. You are not even really sure how she feeds herself because you never see her go to the grocery store. She is lonely and considered annoying. And lastly there is that kid in the neighborhood who has just came out as a homosexual. He has his rainbow flag sticker on the back of his jeep. His family use to go to church but once the secret came out, they stopped because they were shunned by a community that is supposed to be known for love. His family now wants nothing to do with the church.
I wrote this brief note as I listened to a Christian speak once: “Why is that he only talks about the problem but never how the solution fixes the problem?” As Christian people we understand grace to it’s depths. We push on in the world because God when we did not deserve it chose to suffer for our sake. Why if we understand grace better that anyone often times are the only ones in the room NOT saying “Have no fear for God is with us?” as the world around us starts changing. I have often found more hope in the eyes of unbelievers than believers and it makes no sense because unbelievers do not believe in the actual true hope of Jesus Christ. I look out into the world and see protests and campaigns being started to protect the weak and innocent but what I fail to see is Christians engaging with that. I hear the sayings that religion and politics do not mix. That God and our social climate should have nothing to do with each other but that’s not the Jesus I met over 7 years ago.
Dear Christian, we are called to be a light in the world as Jesus was. Jesus is our hope so share that with someone. Why have you bottled it up in a cage as you point to all the problems in the world which causes anxiety and fear in your eyes? Why are letting darkness have the upper hand if you have the God of the Universe on your side leading the charge.
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Salt and light are two things we are called to be in the world. Salt is a preservative, a seasoning, it makes our food taste so good. Just think about when your moms mac and cheese is tasting a little bland if you add some salt it makes the whole dinner better. It takes what was once a bad thing and it makes it delicious. It causes your stomach to crave more.
Likewise a light in a dark room is probably the more stunning example pointed out in this passage because if you ever have noticed when you are standing in a room that is pitch black dark but you light a lamp the room glows. You are now able to see every corner and crack in the wall. You begin to notice the beautiful colors on the wall from the paintings. Things you did not see when the room was dark is now fully capable of capturing your line of sight. It is as if a blind person can now see.
Is that not what we are as Christians to the world? They are the blind and when we walk into the rooms spouting off our hope and our reliability on the Lord it opens up a brief(At the least) mirror of what Christ has done for us. He gave us a sight so we can see, we reflect that light so that others can see. A hopeless Christianity which many of us engage in is not the true Christianity that teaches that dead men are now coming alive by the multitudes. There is nothing in Acts that screams: “Christians are hopeless and the Kingdom is suffering.” It is not the Christianity that says God came to bring the world back to himself. We left the garden to go live in the wilderness but if you remember Christ went into the wilderness for us(Mark 1:12-13). He chased after us. Christ experienced everything we have experienced and more. He has literally went to hell and back so that we do not have too. Though we may one day be persecuted and treated differently than those who have different mindsets, we are able to rest in the fact that God is sovereign and man is not. Christ is King, not man, and because Christ is king we have nothing to fear. There is a reason why when you read the words of Scripture you walk away with a hope and encouragement in your eyes and that is because over and over God has used broken people to establish his good plan of redemption. God has used broken people to produce mighty works that none of us ever thought was possible. It was people like your neighbors that God chooses to use. No one expected David of all people to be a king. He was a shepherd boy. He was not even picked to fight in a battle yet God used David to conquer the giant. King Solomon in Ecclesiastes is the neighbor who seems to have it all together yet when you look into his eyes you begin to notice that what’s reflecting back is a lostness, like he’s in the wilderness, hopeless. He’s realized more than he lets off yet how many times have we looked at our neighbors, the people in our communities and spoke with a hopeless rhetoric. For me at least, Christ brought a joy to my life that was not there before. I almost do not recognize the kid in eighth grade who thought it would be better to die than to go one more day without any hope that things would get better. See, Christ came and gave that kid hope. Not just for eternity but hope for the here and now. Jesus was the light as he says: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) I have not since that day that Christ opened my eyes been able to walk without knowing deep within my soul that as Christ begins to move in the people around me that old habits, old bad habits will die hard. It will not be an easy death because they will be meeting face to face with the light. If you have two objects in the room, one being light and the other being darkness, I cannot think of how the darkness will ever win that battle because the light causes the darkness to run away. Christ when he came, did not come in chariots and protecting his image, no. Christ came in the roughest way possible. He causes commotion in the streets. He stood up for the weak and the broken and if you remember the Pharisees were always the ones without hope. For even when they seen the hope right in front of them, they could not understand it.(John 8)
So why Christian have you spoken as if Christ never came? Why did you tell your lost neighbor that the world is getting worse and we have nothing to grab hold of besides our bootstraps? If I had to be honest, I do not look forward to the day when Christ comes splitting the skies, but that is only because Christ has already come. I am not waiting one day to be united with my savior because I know my savior has already united himself to me by coming down as a lowly servant and dying the death that I should have died in order to give me a new life. He has already purchased his people and saved them from their bondage. He is here now, and if you slow down for a just a second and look into your neighbors eyes you will begin to see just how much work Christ has already done. It may take a while for you to notice just how good God is within the world, but it just takes a devotion to the Scripture to help you gain sight to see what you’ve been missing. Because even the person, that Christian without hope in his words, there is still hope for him to gain his sight back. There is still hope for every neighbor on that street to experience the taste of the Good Shepherd’s grace. Just remember that the light lives in you now and he can break any chain that gets in your way. There is nothing to fear for God is with us.
By: Austin Neil Gregory