Today’s post is by a dear friend of mine, Andy Vaughn. Andy and his wife Karlie are part of our community of friends who are purposefully living life and pursuing God together. Andy has experience ‘letting his light shine’ in Africa, the oil fields, and the suburbs, so I asked him to share his unique perspective with us today.
Light Defeats Darkness, by Andy Vaughn
If you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time, you’ve heard encouragements, admonishments, exhortations and advisements to “Shine your light”. We’ve been told to let our light shine in the form of songs, sermons, and small groups. From the time many of us were the height of Zacchaeus the wee little man, we knew what to do with “This little light of mine.” 1
But then we grew up. We entered a world of darkness that was evil and our innocent minds couldn’t comprehend what we were up against. What made so much sense in the safe confines of our local church now seemed…complicated. Some of us tried to witness; only to have a good friend get offended. Others tried the classic “I’ll mind my business, you mind your business” routine. Most would bounce back and forth between the two strategies. Even though we desired to shine our light, we weren’t sure what that even meant anymore.
We know we’re supposed to evangelize, 2 but aren’t sure how. For example, some people find great success handing out tracts, while others cringe at the idea. The one thing most of us can agree on is that we don’t evangelize as much as we should. 3
What if we stopped trying to evangelize the lost – and instead chose to love them? Befriend them. Laugh with them. People from every nation, tribe, and tongue need friends. Why not be those friends? We all want to be enjoyed and respected. Why not actually treat them like individuals instead of broken appliances to fix? People want to be your friend, not your project.
Shining your light might actually mean more than simply telling someone to stop swearing 4 in your presence. Shining your light is gaining their respect so that they’ll stop swearing on their own out of respect for you.
This isn’t to say that by “loving them” we don’t speak the truth to our friends. As Warren Wiersbe says:
“Truth without love is brutality; love without truth is hypocrisy.”
Real love always protects. Nothing is more damaging to a human body or soul than sin. If we truly love our friends, then we won’t stand passively by and allow anything to harm them. But we also won’t shove the gospel down their throats, either. Many times we need to accept people as our friends first and then as we share our lives (i.e. our light) then the conversation will naturally lead to Jesus. At least it should. Hopefully it’s hard to talk about your life without mentioning your Lord! If you can have several conversations with someone without your faith coming up, then perhaps there’s a bigger problem at play.
When people are being held captive by darkness, it is our calling to shine the glorious and life-giving light of Jesus into that darkness and rescue them.
That’s precisely what God did for us. He chose us. Think about that – while we were still waging war against him, his Kingdom, and his people he chose to welcome us into his family. He rescued, adopted, and redeemed us to ensure that we would glorify him for all eternity.
Jesus was ferociously tender. Effective evangelism needs to emulate that heart and attitude. Listen to some of the tender language concerning God and his people in Scripture:
“How often have I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings”
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out”
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” 5
When we shine our light, it must be done the way God would do it. His kindness is what leads to repentance. But this is more than just being a “nice guy.” 6 This is about a genuine heart level concern born out of knowing the individual on a personal level.
Our light is needed in the world. Jesus is more than a philosophy, lifestyle, or habit. He’s my Savior. He’s your friend. When we love people, then they get to see how Jesus would act during the normal and mundane moments in life. They see him in you.
None of us had our act together when Jesus rescued us. He received us, warts and all. Jesus’ offer wasn’t a special limited time deal. It’s still available for everyone.
To date, light is still undefeated by darkness. Our light may feel small, but when we’re able to get into someone’s life and actually shine that light – the results will be be astounding.
1. Option A – Let it shine. Option B – Don’t hide it under a bush. Option C – This wasn’t ever an option; under no circumstances whatsoever were we to let Satan “shhh” it out.
2. See also, witness, proclaim, preach the gospel, go give them Jesus, etc.
3. This is a complicated statement. Technically, we (the church) “should” be going to the ends of the Earth with the Gospel. But I mean on a more personal level – there are people in all of our lives that need to hear the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord has told us to be bold, and many of us haven’t responded in obedience.
4. Or whatever sin they may be committing.
5. Luke 13:34, Matthew 12:20, Colossians 3:12
6. Being a nice guy, although commendable isn’t what will rescue anyone out of bondage. The world needs fewer “good guys,” and more “God guys.”