Isaiah 60: 1-3
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn
Ephesians 5: 8-11
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
Just as light was designed for darkness, not the bright of day, so Christians are at their most effective, not when gathered in the church, but shining into and illuminating every corner of society.
Historically the church has related to contemporary culture in one of three ways: (i) we have retreated from it entirely for fear of being corrupted and contaminated by 'worldly' values; (ii) we have ‘Christianised’ it, simply replicating what the culture does but from a Christian perspective. The contemporary Christian music scene which was so huge in the last decades of the 20th century is an obvious example of this. Christian movies and television are also often poor, sub-standard attempts to copy what is on offer in the mainstream media; (iii) we have capitulated to the culture, immersing ourselves in the norms and values of our age, thinking that this will make the church more attractive to those outside our walls. This is classic liberalism and is reflected in the theology and practice of churches with regards to accommodating the moral issues of our day.
Instead of retreating from, Christianising, or capitulating to, what are seen as ‘secular’ pursuits, we are called to redeem them, to restore the beauty inherent in them. We have the mind of Christ, we have supernatural heavenly insight, we have access to expansive Kingdom wisdom. Therefore we should be leading the way in providing solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems, pushing the cutting edge of science and technology, promoting ethical profit making in economics, business and banking, advancing thinking in learning and education, raising the bar of creativity in music and the arts.
As Christians, we need to understand who we are and what we carry, and to enter every sphere with a holy boldness and a humble confidence, aware that we have the advantage in our ability to influence and impact wherever we go. We should be the most passionate, creative, expressive, fun, life-giving, generous, positive, forward thinking, entrepreneurial, secure, liberated people on the planet.
There is an expression of God’s nature, character and creativity which the world can only see through you expressing the uniqueness He has placed inside you. God gets no glory when His people hide away behind church walls. He has called us to shine, to trust that the light within us will leak out into every environment we enter.
In today’s reading, the prophet Isaiah called on the people of God in the Old Testament to arise and shine. They didn’t fulfill His call and mandate so Jesus passed it to us, His church when He addressed us as ‘the light of the world’. This is now our day, our time, our opportunity to take hold of it and see it fulfilled.