Sometimes, God speaks so fast that it is hard to catch it all. This week has felt a bit like drinking from the fire hose and I am not sure why that is but I love when God just pours His heart into ours. We started the Justice & Worship Tour last week and have spent the last few days in Las Vegas, experiencing this city and meeting some amazing men and women who are acting out the love of God to people who are in need. It is honestly difficult not to be discouraged in a city like this, where everything is free game and just walking down the strip guarantees that you will be face to face with every kind of darkness imaginable.
Chris and I tried to go out on a ‘date’ the other night to see a bit of the city and honestly, it was difficult to enjoy. As we were walking, Chris brought up the idea that you so often hear that ‘ignorance is bliss.’ He said, “You know, ignorance is really just ignorance.” Choosing or desiring ignorance is just a way of allowing yourself to pursue things you want without it affecting your conscience or triggering guilt. For so many coming into Las Vegas, ignorance is necessary for pleasure. We have found that once the scales fall off your eyes and the reality of human trafficking, forced prostitution, bondage to addictions, loneliness and loss of all self-worth are not something that you can walk in the middle of and not be affected.
It makes me think about what Jesus must have thought as He walked through the streets of the cities, having such a keen awareness of the hurting, broken world into which He stepped. As Christians, it is sometimes easier to condemn the world than to want to save it. We get either heavy-hearted about the state of things and have no faith to see the opportunity for change, or, we choose to avoid those places that make us feel this way, remaining instead in the comfort of our church buildings and nice, safe neighborhoods. But that doesn’t look like the Jesus that I have come to know and love. We need to be sober, to acknowledge the reality of sin, to acknowledge our part in it, and then to step into the dark places with the light that cannot be contained.
How often do you step into the dark places of your city? I ask myself this and get a lump in my throat. I know that there is so much that I have gained from my upbringing in the church, but there are also things that I have adopted that maybe aren’t as healthy. One of those is a fear of darkness and fear of being influenced by the world. Sometimes, as well meaning as it is, we teach young believers to be afraid of the world, of its vices and the darkness that can so easily suck you down. We are so concerned about the next generation falling into sin that we communicate a message that says, if you venture outside of the safe Christian bubble, you are going to fall. Chris and I both heard growing up, “Show me your friends and I will show you your future,” which can translate as “you should only be friends with Christians.”
What I realized now is that evangelism is incredibly difficult for me, a Christian who grew up surrounding myself with believers. Chris and I moved to San Diego, excited to be in a community where we could really reach those that didn’t know Christ but guess what happened – we spent 90% of our time in the church, with church people because that is our default and that is our ‘training.’ I have a sense that there are so many other Christians like us, taught to fear the darkness to a fault and aspiring to a Christianity that has neglected, if not forgotten, the mission of Christ.
This reminds me of the Christmas candlelight services that I have attended over the years, watching the candles get lit across huge auditoriums of people, thousands of lights in the same room, light shining on light. How beautiful would it be to see those lights move further and further out of the church building and into the truly dark areas of our cities.
One of the ministries we visited this week talked about Jesus words in John 10:37, “If I do not do the works of my Father, do not believe me.” This verse keeps showing up in my life and reminding me of the mission of Christ, the mission He fulfilled and the mission He gave to us. We are to shine in the darkest areas because we are confident that God’s light always pushes out the darkness. There is no reason to fear darkness but instead, we should be running into it, declaring the power of God to save and redeem.
I would love to end this with some big challenge, but I am not really a motivational speaker and God is still spelling out for me what this looks like in my life. I can say though that little by little, fear is being replaced with a love for the lost that makes me forget my previous reasons for hesitation. I believe that the gates of Hell truly will not prevail against the overtaking love of the Father, and that, as a Christian of 30 years old, is a revelation that changes everything.
You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.
Matthew 16:18 (The Message)