by Pastor Bill Heffelfinger
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 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. 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.” Matthew 5:14-16
What are you doing? That question, like most, can have many different meanings, depending on which syllables the speaker puts the emphasis. We often ask our kids this question, with a clear message that they shouldn’t be doing whatever it is that prompts the question. I often ask myself that question when I make a dumb decision to try to go for the green after a wayward tee shot, rather than pitching out to the fairway, only to result in compounding my mistakes. But, perhaps, Christians don’t ask themselves this question enough when it comes to living our faith.
Many Christians doing nothing, because we can’t earn our salvation. Our salvation is in Christ alone. Full stop. Thus, they conclude, doing any good work would be trying to earn that salvation, and because they wouldn’t want to take any of Christ’s credit, they excuse themselves and proceed to nothing. Within the past week, I was reminded twice, in powerful ways, of the flaws in that behavior.
Last week, I flew to Nashville for a conference for work. On the plane, I reread one of my favorite books, “Safe at Home” by Bob Muzikowski. It’s the story of Muzikowski’s battle with drugs and alcohol, how he was introduced to Christ’s love by a rugby playing pastor of a NYC church, and how after turning to Christ, Muzikowski impacted the lives of thousands of kids by starting little league programs throughout the city of Chicago. One particular passage, however, struck me. After a drive-by shooting during one of the little league games, Muzikowski received a voicemail from a couple of coaches who “supported the vision” of the league, but “didn’t feel called to coach anymore,” but would “continue to pray” for the league. Muzikowski deciphers the Christianese of the message, and comes to this conclusion:
“We’ll ‘pray for you’ usually doesn’t mean anything. If everyone who promised to pray for me really did, I’d be levitating. It happens so often that when I have other Christians tell me ‘I’ll pray for you,’ I’m tempted to say, ‘Don’t pray for me. Either coach third base or umpire the two o’clock game next Saturday afternoon.'
It’s not that I don’t value people’s prayers. I do. But any little old lady in a nursing home who can’t get out of bed can pray. And a lot of them do. What we need even more are volunteers we can count on. To show up on time. And not quit halfway through the season.” p. 227
Each time I read that passage, I feel compelled to ask myself if I could be doing more, not to earn salvation, but so that those around me would “see [my] good works and give glory to [my] Father who is in heaven."
But, by the time the plane landed, and I was enjoying pulled pork and country music throughout Nashville, the thoughts of what more I could be doing to show God’s glory were less of a concern than the next line dance I could learn.
Little did I expect, on the 2nd day of the conference, at a luncheon with 1,000 of my colleagues, I would be reminded once again to ask myself, “What are you doing?” During the portion of the luncheon where we are introduced to the local charity our organization is raising funds to support during our conference, a young woman stood on stage and told us of her life of drugs, prostitution, and 82 arrests (including 2nd degree murder). But, the reason she was standing in front of us was to share how she was “saved by love” through an organization called “Thistle Farms."
To make a long story short, a woman began Thistle Farms as a community to support those who have survived prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. They employ these women in various social enterprises, which include a natural body care company, a café, an artisan studio, and a few other ventures. The woman standing before us, broke down in tears, sharing the story of how Thistle Farms, because they were willing to love on her, provide her with job training and skills, and remind her that her past does not have to define her. They were willing to do something for her, rather than just talk about it.
You see, love is a verb. It requires action. If we are called to share God’s love, we are called to put it into action. It’s time we take seriously our call to action. What that’s going to look like for our church, remains to be seen. But, let’s do it together. Let’s let our good works shine and give glory to our Father.