Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16).
How do well-intentioned people obscure the light of the gospel? Let me count the ways.
A young English-born minister in a small town on the Canadian prairies devotes his Sunday morning message to denouncing the evils of hockey and praising the Christian virtues of cricket.
I am a young single man and it feels like God is speaking to me. I want to understand His will and that moves me to attend a church in a nearby city. I am impressed with the simple, straightforward service, but I am invisible. I attend twice and give up.
At one church that my wife and I visit after we are married, the pastor begins the service by asking everyone to get up and introduce himself / herself to the people beside, behind and in front of them in the pews. It feels good. After the service, everyone leaves without another word. This is the first and the last time we attend that church.
At another church, young people are coming back to the faith, confessing their sins, making restitution. The pastor gives much time to support and encourage these young people. Then he is dismissed because some members of the congregation are afraid of where this enthusiasm might lead.
A small Baptist congregation fears that it might die out if nothing changes. They hire a pastor who begins an outreach that brings in a number of new members. The long term members suddenly realize that they will soon be outnumbered and dismiss the pastor.
A young mother is diagnosed with cancer. The elders of her church pray for her healing and she is healed. Well-advertised public meetings are held where she gives her testimony of how the Lord healed her from cancer. A year later she is dying from the same cancer. The members of her church are reluctant to offer help and sympathy, because it would seem to be unbelief to admit she is dying of the disease from which the Lord healed her.
Two single sisters live together, one is Pentecostal and a nurse, the other is Catholic and a teacher. The Pentecostal sister is always bubbly and enthused, ever ready to lend a helping hand to others. The Catholic sister does not feel any drawing to her sister’s faith. “She lives in fear” she tells us. Fear of never quite doing enough to prove that she is a real Christian.
Some evangelical Christians seem to be indistinguishable from the world. The rate of divorce is not much different from the general society, young people are living together without being married and seemingly sound believers have a secret interest in pornography.
Some Christians believe it is important to distinguish themselves from the world, so they draw up a set of rules for themselves, including a uniform dress code to identify themselves as real Christians. It looks clean and pure to outsiders, but a closer look reveals that these people find it hard to trust each other. They are watching suspiciously to detect any deviation from the rules.
These are just a few of the things that I have encountered in my quest to know the truth about life and eternity. Despite the disappointments and disillusionments, I did become a Christian and I do believe that Christians are the light of the world.
I will not go on and on listing the ways that others distort or cloud that light. The value of these examples is to warn me to look at what there is about me that could hinder someone else from seeing the light of the gospel.