The Boys spent the night with us last night, our grandsons, Jon-Mical and Jakson. We rented a RedBox movie, Middle School. The rule for us is no bad words in the movie and Jon-Mical assured us that it had none. At nine, he is our movie and TV ratings expert so we took his word for it. He was right. No bad words. There were two places where the character started the word and then didn’t finish. You know. If we were writing it would be the first letter followed by the $*&# symbols. I don’t know how $*&# became the universal language for the language we don’t use, but it is. So, two places where instead of the bad word there was a blank. The problem was that Jakson, our six-year-old grandson, decided to help Mimi and PoppyC by filling in the blank. It would go something like this. The character in the movie would say, “Here comes the principal. Oh s*&#.” A which point Jakson would turn to us and very helpfully say, “He said, s*&#.” Mimi would gasp, explain how we don’t say that word, and all would be good. Until the next place in the movie, when the character would not finish his word and Jakson would fill in the blank.
I woke up this morning to the horrible story of a mass shooting in Las Vegas last night. The latest report I read said 50 dead, 200 wounded. I read about the devastation of the hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the rising political controversy over whether we, as a country, are responding quickly enough. I saw articles and FaceBook posts on the now weekly dispute over athletes and the National Anthem. And I wondered about all of this and what we as believers are supposed to do about it. As one FaceBook responder said, “Please tell me, as a person, one individual in a sea of humanity with no voice, no platform, no money, and no influence. What’s my role? What’s my obligation?” In other words. How do I fill in the blanks?
Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise our Heavenly Father.” (NLT) When the news is bleak and the world is dark, when fear is rampant and evil seems to be in charge, when there are more questions than answers and nobody knows how to finish the sentence, Jesus says, “You fill in the blanks.”
Look at His words with me. First, He says, you DO have a voice. “You ARE…” He says. Not you might, or maybe, or if you get a platform. Just plain, straightforward, YOU ARE. You are a light. You have a voice. There is something that YOU can do. All of us, especially those of us who call ourselves Christ followers, have a circle of influence. If you are the pastor of a great church, speaking to a thousand people on Sunday morning or a school bus driver, picking up thirty kids on Monday, you have people that you connect with. You have the potential and the possibility to be light. When they can’t understand what is going on around them, like Jakson, you turn to them and very helpfully say, “He said…this.” It is not true that you have no voice, a single person, lost in a sea of humanity. You may just be one but you are one. Speak up.
So, Jesus says you have a voice. The second thing He says is you have a platform. “A lamp is placed on a stand where it gives light to everyone in the house.” I don’t know where you are located on the platform scale. My sister has a million FaceBook followers. I have thirty-seven. Doesn’t matter. I have a blank that I can fill in and I need to be doing that. I don’t imagine very many of us have a huge, national audience. But we all have a house, a home, a family. Jesus says, “Start there.” Moms and dads, grandparents, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, we can all start where we live. Giving hope and help to those that love us and that we love, or at least should. Are you concerned about reconciliation in the world? Start by reconciling in your own home. Are you dismayed by the apparent lack of respect in society? Begin by being respectful to your children’s father, or to your children. Are you frustrated with the stalemate and standoff of the political parties? Try offering forgiveness and breaking the stalemate with your own spouse. Let your light shine and let it start right where you are, with family, friends, neighbors. Your platform starts on your own little stand.
Finally, Jesus says, “It’s not so much what you say, but what your DO that matters.” Your talk talks and your walk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks. One of the problems with our influence is that we are all talking about stuff but very few are actually living out a life of peace, forgiveness, kindness, and reconciliation. Jesus says, “You have a voice. You have a platform.” Then, surprisingly enough He says, “DO, not talk, DO.” Last night, after the movie, we had devotions with the boys. Jon-Mical read a Bible story. (He’s a great reader.) We talked about our favorite Bible verses. We memorized one together. (Philippians 4:13) And then we prayed. I kind of think that filled in a lot more blanks than if we had just fussed about saying bad words and railed against children’s movies that “imply” off color things. “Do your good deeds…” That famous quote by Edmund Burke seems to fit, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Here are five things that come to my mind that I can DO today to let my light shine:
- Smile at people. Just greet everybody with a kind smile. Don’t look through them. Make eye contact and offer a brief acknowledgment.
- Engage someone that is different from you. Take time to say hello and ask how the day is going for someone with an accent, with a different skin color, wearing a hijab.
- Do a random act of kindness. Hold the door for a young mother with her hands full. Lend a hand to the old neighbor guy who is pulling his trash can back from the road.
- Forgive one thing today that you have been carrying around for too long. Tell you wife you are sorry about the “tiff” last night and ask her forgiveness. Excuse the teen that cuts you off in traffic. Let something go today.
- Introduce Jesus. Just simply, casually bring God into the conversation. “Hasn’t God given us a beautiful day here in Middle Tennessee?” Instead of the griping and complaining we usually do, praise God for something. Out loud. To someone.
Listen, there is enough $*&# in the world. What we need to do is be a light. It’s not that hard. Even Jakson can fill in the blanks.
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