“You are the light of the world, like a city on a hill which can not be hidden”.
I’m sure most of us, whether we were raised in church or not, have either heard or sung that old song, This Little Light of Mine. As I recall, the song seemed to have an unlimited number of verses to it so that it could be sung continually for hours on end. I’m quite certain that many of the verses were made up along the way-“let it shine ’til Jesus comes”…”light it when I first wake up.”…”wonder what’s for lunch today”…you get the picture. One of the hundreds of verses was, “won’t let Satan blow it out“, substituting the word “blow” with an actual blowing sound for effect. Sadly, some Christians have taken up that job themselves, snuffing out the lights of others.
Social media has invaded our lives. It’s hard to imagine a time when Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social platforms didn’t exist. There are many positive aspects of being able to connect with old friends and keep in touch with distant relatives or even face-timing or video chatting with someone a thousand miles away. But social media has also become a vehicle for bashing each other, tearing others down and sowing discord. Being able to post uncensored thoughts in real time has given some a bold and brazen approach to being over critical and judgmental beyond our authority. Instead of being lights in the world, some have made it their mission, or dare I suggest, their ministry, to snuff or blow out the lights of others. We don’t need to worry about Satan blowing out lights when the snuffers are our own Christian siblings.
A person enjoys a nice glass of wine, a beer or even an occasional cocktail while out with friends. A holy roller sees this and determines that true Christians should never be seen drinking, so they blow out their light. The lady who has a shapely figure comes to church in a nice modest dress, but a church mother thinks it is too form fitting and a distraction-a Christian lady would never wear that to church, so puff, out goes her light. A man exercises his right to vote in the election, but some pious saints know he voted for the “wrong” candidate. How could any true believer call themselves a Christian but support that person and their platform. There goes another light. Satan is taking a long overdue vacation while we do his work for him. Instead of exhorting each other on to greater things, as scripture compels us to do, we have become volunteer firefighters, looking for the next flame to extinguish.
A couple years ago I had the unique privilege of attending an Easter service in the Greek Orthodox tradition. I can’t tell you what a reverent experience it was. Unlike the traditional Easter Sunday service most of us are accustomed to, their service begins on the Saturday night before and extends into the morning hours of Easter Sunday. One of the most beautiful aspect of this service happens at midnight. At precisely 12:00 AM all of the lights of the church are turned off and all candles on the altar are extinguished. This is done to signify the dark hours of Christ being in the tomb. For a few minutes there is nothing but silence and total darkness. And then, the priest lights one small candle, signifying Christ’s resurrection! He then lights the candles of the assistant priests, who pass it on to the assistants, who then take it into the congregation where each parishioner is holding their own candle. They light the candle of the first person in each row, who then light the person next to them, going row by row until everyone’s candle is burning. It is quite an extraordinary event that is hard to put into words.
There were two observations that stood out to me while participating in this beautiful depiction of Christ’s resurrection. First, was just the impact and significance of life bursting forth from the darkness and emptiness of a lifeless tomb. It drove home the miracle of the resurrection. But the second thing that impressed me was just how quickly a dark church cathedral could be lit up when each person’s little light was joined with others to drive out darkness and illuminate an entire structure! One little candle can light up a small place, and many such candles can chase away any darkness. It is no coincidence that the large floodlights illuminating effects are measured in candle-power.
Our faith has always been and will continue to be under attack by those forces who don’t understand, don’t agree with or find folly in our beliefs. Jesus warned us that the world would hate us because it hated him. It’s difficult enough to protect our lights from the secular forces wanting to snuff it out. We shouldn’t also be concerned with other believers seeking ways to snuff us out. If you proudly wave the banner of your faith, but your social media posts are always negative, condemning or divisive, perhaps you should spend some time trimming your own candle and take inventory of how you are being viewed, or more importantly, how your posts reflect the heart of Christianity. I observe a particular Christian holiday, you see it as pagan-I eat and drink or dress or vote a certain way, you don’t. Let it go, protect my flame as I protect yours. Concentrate on being a light, not a snuffer. Let true brotherly love be your illumination, not bitterness, envy, strife, jealousy or cultural/social difference. We are told in scripture that the world would know we follow Christ when they witness the love we have for each other, not the discord or divisions. Together we should be that city on a hill whose light can’t be hidden or put out. One little light can make a difference in a dark world, especially when joined with so many others!