It's Dark Out There
A candle burned anonymously across from where I sat. The unusually bright Chicago winter day flooded the room with light, overwhelming the glow of the candle. The candle was superfluous, unnecessary, and useless, at least as far as giving light was concerned. Had the room been dark with no other source of light, we would not only have noticed the candle but would have valued and depended on its light.
Christians are candles that are often burning anonymously in the world. We find ourselves in settings where our light is similar to — or even outshined by — the relative good of others. Maybe we feel our light is superfluous, unnecessary, or even useless since it doesn't seem to make much of a difference in the world.
It is important to remember that faithful Christians shine as lights in the world whether or not it is acknowledged by the world (Philippians 2:15). Although the contrast between the Christian and the world — between the true follower and the faux disciple — should eventually become clear, the contrast is not always readily apparent. Upon closer examination, it can be discovered that what was thought to be an angel of light is, in fact, Satan himself (II Corinthians 11:14). But closer examination will sometimes be necessary, and not everyone will do what is necessary. But remember, the popularity of Satan's feigned radiant veneer in no way taints the spectacular glory of the true angels of light.
We shine because God made us lights — period. We shine in the light and we shine in the darkness. Our radiance is not simply measured physically. Although obvious external differences will exist in the lives of Christians in contrast to those of the world, the most significant differences are spiritual. The greatest glory will be found in forgiveness, love, joy, peace, hope, longsuffering, and holiness…
I want to take a very dark turn here. Jesus said, "It is impossible that no offenses should come…" (Luke 17:1). In Philippians 2:15 Paul stated what is obvious to us—we live in a "crooked and perverse generation." The "god of this age" (II Corinthians 4:4) is not the one true and living God because people do not "like to retain God in their knowledge" (Romans 1:28). To make matters worse, the god of this world has blinded people "lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them" (II Corinthians 4:4). It's dark out there. And it's going to get darker.
Paul warned that "evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived" (II Timothy 3:13). Dark — and getting darker — that's what Paul said. Peter said we shouldn't be surprised by it (I Peter 4:12). I'm not looking forward to this, nor am I going to suggest that darker darkness is a good thing. But darker darkness affords greater opportunity for lights to shine, to serve their created purpose, and to be more useful.
I have heard people talk of the darkening of the world in terms of fear, wondering how the faithful will be able to shine their lights. Jesus says, even at the moment of greatest darkness, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden" (Matthew 5:14) Cannot be hidden! When the darkness darkens, the only thing that changes is how noticeable the light is. Maybe the darkness will mean lights will be ostracized by society (unfriended on FaceBook?), mocked, arrested, and made homeless. My children and grandchildren may be destitute, afflicted, and tormented just like those in Hebrews 11. I'm still glad I have children and grandchildren, and I hope for them to have faith and the opportunity for the light of Christ to be seen in them in the clearest, most radiant way possible. Fear? Does light fear darkness, or does light see an opportunity to be useful, important, and relevant? May we all join those in the light "of whom the world was not worthy" (Hebrews 11:38). May we "walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8) when it is light and when it is dark, because that's what we are — children of light.