I like to take the outside entrance to my room as often as possible, primarily because it’s the most convenient one for my dog. As a bonus, on most nights I can look up and get a very clear view of the sky just over my head. There is only one light in the yard and it is some distance away from the far corner on the other side, leaving my entrance in total darkness on the cloudy nights that I forget to leave my light on. The reason for that is that it draws an amazingly large number of insects right to my door whenever I leave the light on as it is rather close to the woods. So on this particular night, my entrance was pitch black. I could not see my hand if it were right in front of me. I could not see the stars in the sky. Knowing about where my door was, I approached it confidently. I was wrong. I had run into the staircase just below my door. I figured that I was about one step away from where I needed to be, so I stepped once to the right and confidently approached the first stair. Turns out I was wrong again. I could feel the rail in front of me and realized that I had miscalculated the distance. This time I was one step away from the first step of the staircase. Having run into the metal rail twice did sting a little, but it could have been worse. Even in the darkness I was able to climb the stairs and enter my room. From then on, I decided that it would be better to carry a flashlight to show me the way when all other lights go out.
Christians are called to be lights that shine on a hill, not a forest fire that destroys everything it touches. Whenever I see Christians doing anything that results in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control then I know that their good deeds are likely to bring God glory. Whenever I see Christians doing anything that results in hatred, anger, dissension, rashness, unkindness, harshness, unfaithfulness, and being out of control then I know that whatever they’re doing will not glorify God. I’ve seen how churches like Westboro Baptist Church are completely faithful to their teachings, but their actions are unkind. These good and bad deeds cancel each other out – and nothing good results from them. Not only that, we have Jesus’ example in how he treated various sorts of people:
Pharisees / Saducees / Scribes / Teachers of the Law: he had the harshest words for these groups who excelled at keeping the letter of the law but consistently failed to keep the spirit of the law.
Tax Collectors / Prostitutes: he was known to be a friend to sinners, to reach out to the outcasts and to tell them of God’s love for them.
Widows / Orphans: he held children in the highest esteem and charged his church to stand up for the oppressed in their troubles.
Lepers / Disabled / Ill: he was known to draw large crowds with his sermons and always stopped what he was doing to heal a variety of people from all walks of life.
So often people will focus on how Jesus turned the tables of the money-changers at the temple. But that’s not how he usually acted. If anything, it’s a stark contrast from the guy that was amazed at the centurion’s faith or changed his mind because of what the Syro-Phonecian woman said. It’s not as if he flipped over Matthew’s or Zacheus’ tables and whipped them before asking them to follow him and obey his teachings like the ones from the Sermon on the Mount.
There’s no shortage of darkness in the world or in the human heart. Yet we are called to do the right thing and to be good people so that we can light the way. Belief in Christianity cannot be forced, and not even one law based on Christian teachings was meant to govern an entire nation. We can’t make other people believe or force them to behave by our code of conduct. So we should not be surprised when the world doesn’t do the Christian thing. How can we expect them to when so many Christians are destructive and harmful to themselves and their brothers and sisters who don’t agree with them? In this case, is it not our tendency to darkness that dampens the light?
All of this just makes me ask myself: If Jesus were here right now, what would he teach me about how I ought to treat people? There’s the golden rule, for starters: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I could love my enemies. But I think the best way to do that is to learn to see them as something other than enemies – potential friends, perhaps. That’s to make it easier – we’re so culturally driven to see people as enemies and treat them poorly because of it. This is why Jesus’ teachings are really hard. We’re getting them filtered through human darkness and hardness of hearts. It’s not easy for these obstructed messages to shine through. There are assumptions that we have to tear down out of the way of the light mostly about what love really is. I hope we figure it out soon, because all along it seems that we too have been in one darkness or another.