When your light is not light?
All bible quotes not otherwise marked are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016)
I was out driving the church van the other day when I say a message on the back of a car. It wasn’t a bumper sticker per se but a pretty big message that ran across the back of the car. I’m going to include the message here but if you are sensitive to the vulgar I recommend you not read it.
The message read:
I’m a conservative Christian gun owner.
Have I made you angry yet?
Jesus probably loves you.
I think you are an a*shole.
So this message in rather bold letters ran across the back of a person’s car. Here are some of the implications of what that message meant.
He is claiming to be a Christian.
He wants to make anyone reading who doesn’t agree angry
He doubts Jesus loves you
He doesn’t care what Jesus thinks
He thinks you are bad and he wants you to know it.
I hope this makes all of your hearts bleed. Let me be clear. I am a conservative Christian gun owner. Guess what? His message still made me mad. Not because of those things. Because he is misrepresenting Jesus and he is not acting like a Christian should act. He is bringing disgrace on the church. In fact if I went to church with this person I’d have to go to him about it.
When Jesus said
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.
What is the nature of the light that we are letting shine? Is it supposed to make people mad? Maybe. The gospel divides. This wasn’t the gospel though. All this did was shut everyone’s ears to any gospel this man might have proclaimed. Insults are not light.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Is hurling insults at those who disagree thinking on good things. Is it bearing the fruit of the Spirit
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
The fruit of the spirit is what comes out of a Christian who is walking with the Lord. Do you think this message on the back of the car is evidence of someone walking with the Lord? What is heart rending about this message is that it is on the person’s car. It’s not a fleeting moment of anger. It’s not a bitter retort. It’s something they felt strongly enough about to put on the back of their car in bold letters.
So let me be clear. It is not the first part that I am taking offense about. There is nothing wrong with being a Conservative Christian gun owner. I am one so I’d be a hypocrite if I said it wasn’t okay. It’s the belligerent tone and the lack of caring about other people that leads to the offense.
There is a lot of political anger out there these days. Some of it is doubtless righteous anger and a lot of it is not. It doesn’t matter. Things make me angry all the time. I am the one though who chooses to hurt my witness when I unleash that temper on another human being. Whether the anger is righteous or not it is going to often hurt my testimony. Not in 100% of the cases but in many cases. Especially when your reason for violence or name calling is of trivial importance in the moment even if you are right.
I think this is convicting. I need to hear it. I bet a lot of you need to hear it. We are a people that are often quick to defend our rights. We want to explode when someone cuts in line. People. What are we thinking about? Are we concerned for their soul? Because we know they are sinners. We know they do evil because their father is Satan. Why are we surprised? We do we act like them and not like Jesus. God is our father. How often have you heard a parent say “I didn’t raise you that way”. The import is that whatever those other kids are doing you are not to do it. You were raised better. You are children of the King. You are going to reign and rule in heaven. Why are you not focused on your work here and instead you are focused on those you think are trampling your rights?
Another bumper sticker “If Jesus had a gun, he’d be alive today”.
Wow. Here is how Jesus addresses this absurdity. Peter has just struck off the ear of the servant of the high priest.
52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?
Folks. Jesus didn’t need twelve legions of angels either.
He could have spoken them dead.
21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.
Jesus is God in the flesh. He doesn’t need anything. Nothing. He is the creator of the entire universe. Every atom in existence will move at his command. He could have destroyed all of Rome with a thought.
So let me beg you as a Christian is let your anger cool off in the saucer before you tarnish your witness. Just as super hot coffee will burn we must let a little go into the saucer where it will cool first. Perhaps with a cool head we can say what the Lord wants us to say. We can make people feel God’s love. We can lead them to Christ.
As a Christian we cannot win others if our own light is like a flickering neon sign. We want our light to shine. We must love others. Imagine your favorite person in the whole world. Imagine they’ve done something normally angers you but because of your immense love you let it go or you correct them very gently. Be like that to everyone.
It’s hard. If we don’t try, then we are part of the problem and not the solution. Many of our churches today have grown cold. They are known as “mean” churches because they treat people so badly. I talked to a man today who was battered by abuse from churches that have forgotten how to love.
1 Corinthians 13:1-7
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
It all comes back to love. When we hate we cannot effectively serve God. Just read above. Everything we do is nothing without love. It’s not enough to do things. We must love those we help.
Thank you for reading. There will be more God willing. I love you all. I pray God blesses your mission.