“Reflecting The Light of God”
Have you ever had a time in your life when you wished you could just disappear?
Maybe it was the time when you tried to say something funny in a large group of people, and nobody laughed.
Maybe it was the time when you worked up your courage to ask someone out, and the person responded with, “Let’s just be friends.”
Maybe it was the time when your mind went blank in the middle of an oral report at school because as you got up in front of everyone, the entire class began to snicker and laugh as soon. You didn’t know what to do, nor why everyone was laughing, until finally someone mercifully yelled out, “Zip up your pants!”
Or maybe it was when you were playing centerfield, and a routine pop fly ball was hit your way for what will surely be the final out of the regional semi-final game against your arch rival, who you already lost to twice that season, and no one thought you had a chance to beat them and move on, but here you were about to secure the one run win, with two runners on in the bottom of the inning—and plop you drop it and the season is over.
Those are all hypothetical—I just made them all up as examples of when I, I mean, when we might want to be invisible.
But there are times other than being embarrassed that we want to be invisible.
Sometimes we want to be invisible because we are ashamed of our actions. We don’t want people to see what we are doing. We prefer our privacy, where we can hide our activities from others.
In the words of Paul to the Ephesians, we are “following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient” (2:2).
This might be odd language, but we can figure out what Paul is trying to communicate — We often behave in a very worldly way, under the influence of powers and spirits that lead us away from God.
We live in “the passions of our flesh,” we follow “the desires of flesh and senses,” we let our ambition, greed, jealousy and anger get the best of us.
We know that we are heading in the wrong direction, and that we ought to turn around but changing direction is tough. We would rather just vanish. Poof! Become invisible.
If this is you, and you want to disappear, then good news, science is in the process of providing some help.
Researchers have demonstrated that they are now able to cloak three-dimensional objects using artificially engineered materials that redirect light around an object—If you are a fan of Harry Potter, then you will understand what I mean when I say that scientists are quite literally developing an invisibility cloak.
How this works is that materials deflect light waves around a body, like water flowing around a smooth rock in a stream.
This research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Army Research Office— the Army is of course interested in gaining a fighting advantage by making its people and equipment invisible.
The key is to keep light from reflecting off you, and instead find a way to bend light around yourself. If light is reflected, then you’re going to be seen.
But before we get too excited about this idea of disappearing, we need to ask ourselves, is this what Christians should want to do—deflect light, and be invisible? Or are we to reflect light and be even more visible?
It is clear from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that God wants the divine light to reflect off us, instead of bend around us.
Paul says that “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”
We become alive with Christ when we are baptized into the Christian community.
But it’s not just here in Ephesians that Paul preaches this reflection instruction
In his letter to the Galatians he says, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27).
To the Romans Paul says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:14).
So we are “clothed” with Christ, writes Paul, and we “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ — this is what it means to be a properly dressed disciple of Christ—and not one who looks to be invisible.
Now I get it, there are times that we want to be invisible—we don’t even have to have done anything embarrassing to have the desire to not be seen, but when it comes to being a follower of Jesus, bending light and becoming invisible is bad.
Reflecting light and being visible is what we are to do because God’s not interested in hiding us, and God certainly doesn’t want God’s light to bend around us.
Instead, God clothes us with Christ so that we will be visible signs of God’s presence in the world.
So what does such a life look like?
Pastor Todd Bolsinger suggests that we think in terms of celestial bodies.
He asks, “Would you rather be, a star or a moon?”
He says that most people lean toward being star, which makes sense. “Why be a lifeless moon when you can blaze in glory, give off light, and be the center of your own solar system?”
But Bolsinger encourages us to think again, saying, “We weren’t made to be stars. In truth, God is the only star— ‘God is light’, says 1 John 1:5, ‘and in him there is no darkness at all.’”
Bolsinger contends that we were each created to be a reflecting moon, instead of a bright star. “Moons reflect the light of the sun in the darkness. How many times have you been out on a dark night, and were grateful for the glow of a full moon? When others can’t see the sun, or feel as if they are wandering lost, we can offer them a reflection of life to light their paths and keep them safe.”
Now for those of us who don’t feel we deserve to reflect the light of God, Paul stresses that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”
The light of God is a free gift of God, given to us despite our many sins and shortcomings. We don’t earn this cloak, and we certainly don’t deserve it.
Instead, God gives it to us so that we will reflect God’s light to the world.
By grace, God moves us from dimness to light, from invisibility to visibility, from an undercover existence to an elevated seat in the heavenly places.
God takes pleasure in showing us off, as signs of how loving and powerful and creative God is—as if God is saying, “Look at this one, who was sinful and unworthy, but I have redeemed them.”
We have been created for a life of visibility.
As people who reflect the light of God, we can do good and meaningful work in the world.
Just imagine, God’s light being shined in some very dim places.
Places like…a prison.
Catherine Rohr, a private-equity investor, visited a prison in Texas and discovered inmates who were repentant and worshiping God.
She saw that prison was a “storehouse of untapped potential, full of men who were eager to learn how to turn their life around.”
Rohr launched the “Prison Entrepreneurship Program”, which offers business training to inmates.
According to Christianity Today, the program has graduated 420 students with business plans they can use upon their release in fields such as landscaping, real estate, or in the case of one former inmate who formed a faith-based moving company called “Moved By Love.”
God’s light is reflected on the baseball field.
Twenty years ago, Bob Muzikowski moved to Chicago and landed in a working-class neighborhood near the infamous Cabrini-Green housing projects.
After seeing an abandoned lot that had old backstops, he began to work with neighbors to organize an official Little League.
“I had no doubt that God wanted me to play baseball with the kids of Cabrini-Green,” says Muzikowski. “They were, after all, my neighbors.”
He has worked to get three Little Leagues going, and in each of these places the renovated baseball parks have become vital centers for youth sports, and social hubs as well.
Muzikowski shuns the label of social reformer, and believes he is simply trying to be a good neighbor, following the instruction of Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself.
These followers of Jesus are not trying to be a star.
Instead, they are acting like moons, reflecting the light of the Son to others.
They are reflecting the light of God and are now shining in a Texas prison and a Chicago housing project.
They are where all around them can see.
Certainly there are times when we all want to be invisible—we’ve done something embarrassing or even shameful.
But we must dare not forget—though we are sinful people, we have been redeemed—not by works, but by the grace of God.
And God wants us to show that off.
So when it comes to being a Christian, let us remember: Invisible, bad. Visible, good.
Each of us has been created by God for a life of visibility, “created in Christ Jesus for good works,” wherever we live and work and play.
So let us not try to hide.
Let’s not try to disappear.
Let’s not vanish into the dim recesses of the night.
Instead, let’s put on the Lord Jesus, and figure out how we can reflect the light of God to others. Amen.