Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Darkness of Assimilation

When Wyatt was about a year old, I would attempt to silence his fussing by bursting forth with all the childhood songs I remembered, making up the words when I forgot a phrase or two.

One song in particular that Wyatt liked was “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,” In fact, he would dissolve into adorable chuckles when I would sing the verse “Hide it under a bushel?” and loudly say, “No! I’m gonna let it shine.” I never got past the “Won’t let Satan blow it out” verse because when I stopped blowing into his face to “foof out” the candle, he would begin saying, “Sing!” meaning I needed to repeat those two verses again.

While this may be a mere childhood song, it holds a very adult truth.

Jesus told Christians in Matthew 5: 14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (NASB).

It’s rather obvious when I walk into a room or a building where there are no lights burning; therefore, if I am a child of Christ and obeying His commands, it should be very obvious to those around me that I am a Christian.

 A true Christian should not be able to casually, anonymously blend in with the masses but should seem as a blinding light in the very dark America we live in today. True Christians should dress differently; act differently; have an overall positive, hopeful attitude; frequent only those establishments which, if someone else sees them there, will not cause that person to stumble; speak differently; use their money differently; and spend their extracurricular time differently than non-Christians.

As a general rule, though, Christians’ lights are burning pretty dimly. Our daily actions aren’t setting us apart from the rest of the world. conducted a study of 1,402 adults who had not attended a religious service at a church, synagogue or mosque in the previous six months. The results:

A full 72 percent of the people interviewed said they think the church ‘is full of hypocrites....At the same time, however, 71 percent of the respondents said they believe Jesus ‘makes a positive difference in a person’s life’ and 78 percent said they would ‘be willing to listen’ to someone who wanted to share what they believed about Christianity.

For almost ¾ of unchurched people to believe Jesus makes a difference in a person’s life but to also believe church-going Christians are hypocrites tells me Christians are not fulfilling their calling to be sanctified in Christ, to be set apart, to be a light in the world.

This isn’t a new struggle. In the book of Esther, we’re told the story of a young Jewish girl, Esther, a descendent of the exiled Jews who were held captive in Babylon and then who chose not to return to Jerusalem with 40,000 other Jews after King Cyrus of Persia overthrew Babylon.

The story’s suspense hinges on Esther keeping her heritage unknown even after she is crowned Queen of all Persia (Esther 2:10) and all the Jews in Persia’s provinces are sentenced to death by King Xerxes’ new law. Throughout the story, she successfully keeps the secret that she was a Jewess, that she is of the chosen people of God, and her heritage is only revealed when she, herself, spills the beans.

The law of Moses in the Old Testament is full of restrictions for a Jew’s diet, speech, dress, and customs. Thus, Esther’s ability to blend in anonymously tells us how well the Jews had assimilated into the Persian, pagan culture.

I believe the Jews didn’t mean to become so assimilated into a pagan culture—it just happened. One small “it’s no big deal” concession here; one small, “why not” change there; one compromise for the sake of friendship the next day; one change in an attempt to be politically correct the next—and before they knew it, the pagans and God’s chosen people could both look in the same mirror and not be able to tell one from the other.

How well assimilated are you into the world? Do you stick out like a sore thumb? Does everyone you meet see Jesus in you? Can everyone see the difference?

It is difficult to live daily as a “light” in a world that is constantly trying to suck us into participating in the darkness. But, we should strive each day to shine the light of Christ within us.

Assimilation is easy. Being different is hard.

May you and I make a covenant with God this week to be different, to be set apart for His glory.

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