Trolling my Astrovan’s radio dial for classic rock on a recent drive, I happened across two voices. It was talk radio. I immediately picked up the voice of a caller who spoke fluent Christianese. What was wrong with the world, at least for that hour’s discussion purposes, was single moms whose families were supported by state money. Caller and host spoke with great passion and annoyance.
I winced as the radio host casually referenced “those people.” The caller quickly clarified that she was not one of “those people;” her six children had one father, who lived at home and worked. They were both agreed: We’ve got to do something about “those people.” They discussed ideas, including requiring “those people” to attend church training. I’m biting my tongue at this point.
It is sobering and disturbing how often we Christians paint “those people” as what’s wrong with the world. We list off all the evidences of dark things are, how deeply our world has fallen from the heart and ways of God, citing alarming statistics regarding abortions, suicides, AIDS, crime, addiction, single parent families, etc. And those soul-filled statistics are deeply troubling. Something has gone wrong with our world.
So what has gone wrong? What or who is responsible? In my corner of Christianville, the answers come quickly, almost involuntarily: It is those people who kicked God out of the schools; it is those liberal media people and their agenda; it is those godless Hollywood producers; it is those pro-choice fanatics. It is those people.
Decades ago, the London Times selected a variety of writers to submit an essay on the question: “What’s wrong with the world?” The most memorable essay was submitted by a controversial Christian writer, who penned this two-word essay: “I am,” signing it “Sincerely yours, G.K. Chesterton. (Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church, Philip Yancey, Random House)
I am what’s wrong with the world.
Wow. You don’t hear that very often from Christians.
Do we dare even consider the possibility that we are a part of what’s wrong with the world? We should…if I accurately understand the words of Jesus, who said:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (The Bible, New International Version, Matthew 5:14-16)
Here is the funny thing about darkness. It only exists as the absence of light. You don’t have a switch in your house to turn on the darkness. Darkness comes when you turn off or cover the light. So, if our world is dark, it begs the question: What happened to the light? How has the light been covered or veiled?
We need to ask ourselves some honest questions like: I wonder if our judgmentalism is part of the darkness? I wonder if our self-righteousness is what’s wrong with the world? I wonder if retreat into our own “safe” Christian subculture has enhanced the darkness? I wonder if our arrogance has fostered greater darkness? I wonder if yelling slogans and waving clever posters from across the street has contributed to the darkness? I wonder if talking about “those people” on radio talk shows is what’s wrong with the world? I wonder if my judging judgmental Christians is what’s wrong with the world?
If I understand Jesus’ words, a dark world is “our” problem. Every single one of us is what’s wrong with the world. I am what’s wrong with the world. Taking a cue from Michael Jackson, I’m looking at the man in the mirror.
So, I’m asking God now how I’m contributing to the darkness. I expect that’s a prayer He loves to answer. Then, I am asking for grace to be more engaged with others, more compassionate, more obedient, more gracious, more…light. After all, that is what we are supposed to be: the light of the world.