There’s a reason we have doctors, auto mechanics, counselors, appliance repairmen, and hair stylists. It’s simple: things generally don’t fix themselves. They need helpful intervention.
That’s also the reality of the world around us. It’s broken – and it’s not going to fix itself.
Those of us who have been in the church for a long time have a tendency to forget that. We often look at the condition of our world with shock and disbelief, stunned that people do what they do and wondering how our society came to this. Now, there’s no question that we should indeed be saddened, heartbroken, and troubled by the things that take place in our world. The absolute evil, immorality, and injustice that flows from hatred, selfishness, lust, and greed should stir an anger within us, a sense that something is profoundly wrong and out of place. The problem is, we seem to think it should fix itself.
Rather than driving us into the world as an expression of the love and hope found only in Jesus, we allow the shock to drive us away from the world and into isolation. We see the darkness and brokenness around us, shake our heads, write it off as a “sign of the times,” and then retreat to the safety of our sanctuaries convinced that things can only get worse. When confronted with our failure to make a genuine difference in the world, we conveniently remind ourselves of how bad it is “out there,” pinning the blame on the world and its unwillingness to come to us.
It’s difficult, though, to truly justify that attitude and response when we consider what Jesus said: You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world. The mess that exists outside our door is not a reason to hide – it is the reason for our call. Darkness and decay is the reality of a world in bondage to sin, but Jesus lays the responsibility on His followers to drive back the darkness and proclaim the liberty and hope of God’s kingdom. If our communities are going to change, the followers of Christ must move beyond the safety of church walls and the comfort of friendly circles. We must accept our God-given responsibility to be salt in a decaying world and light in dark places.
Sinners can’t be anything but sinners apart from the grace of God. We can sit back, pointing fingers in shock and arrogance, or we can love others where they are, remembering our own need for grace.
Darkness can never be anything but darkness apart from the light. If the darkness is spreading in our neighborhood, perhaps we should humbly confess our own failure to accept the call and responsibility to live as His light in the darkness.
A world blinded and damaged by sin will probably not come running to us on Sunday morning simply because our churches are open. Rather than expecting the unlikely and then shaking our heads in disbelief, perhaps we should reach out and take the blind by the hand, loving them with the love of the only One who can open their eyes.
In Surprised by Scripture, N.T. Wright said, “The Bible is not about the rescue of humans from the world but about the rescue of humans for the world, and indeed God’s rescue of the world by means of those rescued humans.” Our call is to be a part of bringing about His kingdom – not hiding out while we wait for its arrival. And if we, as the people called to be salt and light, remain disconnected and hidden from those who are lost and hurting, we really have no reason to be surprised by the world’s condition. After all, the world simply can’t fix itself.