“While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of light”- John 12:36 (NIV)
There once was a city on a hill that was magnificent. It was exactly as its Founder had intended- everyone working together and living in harmony with one another, growing the city and being a refuge for those who had nowhere else to go. They were a light shining through the dark from high enough over the trees that anyone lost could find it and come in. The gates were never closed. All who came could find what they needed- food, rest, shelter, and love- and they soon became an integral part of the city also. Everyone tended the lighthouse together to ensure that others who needed a place to call home could find their way.
As the city grew, however, problems began to arise. The city started breaking into groups since it was growing so large. It was no longer a small group of people who lived side by side, but a large city of hundreds who began to group up according to their own similarities. Soon, the different groups began murmuring about one another. The different groups began focusing on the perceived weaknesses of the others, and they began to argue about how the city was supposed to be. This group felt it should be exclusive- why did we not have walls to keep out rabble that could come in and wreck everything? Another group felt that one of the other groups were making the city look bad- why did they dress so? Did they not have anything decent to wear even to the city council meetings? The young group called for action- why do the old ones call for patience when clearly radical action is needed? The elders wanted peace- the way will come, and in the meantime why not stay safe in the city?
City meetings were no longer a time of joy and laughter. One after the other, the groups began to split up and form their own smaller towns. The youth dispersed and went to bigger cities where they could be as wild and zealous as they wanted. Another group left and built the walls they wanted, keeping their gates locked unless someone came to them that they wanted to let in. Yet another group left and founded an elegant city that looked beautiful, placing regulations on the types of houses you had to have to live there so only a certain caliber of people could move in. Soon, all that were left were those who were among the last to come to the city before the divisions took place and the elders, who knew that they were at the end of their time. The elders soon were no more, and the last group had no choice but to leave the city and find a more resourceful place to live. While many small towns formed out of the groups who filtered out of the once great city on a hill, many newcomers struggled to fit in to any one town, so they rarely stayed for long before they decided to move on.
Soon, only those who knew already knew where the city had been could find it. With no one to tend it, the beautiful light that had guided so many lost in the darkness to a city bustling with life died out.
The city certainly became something the Founder never intended. Everyone who made up the city had so much to contribute, but instead of using their differences and one groups strengths to compliment another’s weaknesses, they began to crumble and separate.
Does this not sound like Christianity today? We as Christians get so caught up in the little things, in denominational differences, in radicalism, in the world- that we lose sight of the magnificence Jesus Christ created in that original group of disciples. They were not the same, they had different ideas and experiences in their walk with Christ, but they let those differences be used as an empowerment tool rather than a dissection knife. Until Christians can live with one another in harmony and tend to the light on the hill that is Christianity, then how can we expect the world to find it?
They could go to church- sure, there’s plenty around. But if you go to this church, then be sure to wear dress clothes or people will look at you funny. That church down the road is smaller and pretty much made up of just a couple of families, you might not be welcome there if they don’t know you. You could try the one on the other side of town, but it’s full of a bunch of young people who just want to sing worship songs the whole time- not exactly a family affair. This church claims to be welcoming, but if you’ve never been to church before then you might feel a little out of place.
What are we doing, Christians? What are we doing that we won’t use our own interpretations of scripture to strengthen the faith instead of divide it? Why did we abandon the city on a hill? Why did we stop meeting with strangers in their houses? What happened to just being identified as believers?
If our Founder came back to observe what had become of his city, do you think He would be pleased? Do you think it would look as He intended, or do you think He would weep because His city has been abandoned and the light faded?
One group does not know any better than the other. We all have the same Bible and the same Holy Spirit guiding us through, showing us how to shine our light to the world. But we have added our own rules and regulations- we have put up walls with locking gates. We have banned the poor and downtrodden because we don’t want people like that in our church. We have quenched the fire of the youth because we are scared of what will happen if we face a secular world. We have silenced the elderly because they are weak and of a different time. We have turned off the light so no one comes to the door and knocks.
Christ dined with prostitutes and tax collectors. He loved those who were outcasts and welcomed them to his side. He didn’t tell them they had to dress in the finest robes to come to him. He didn’t silence the children because they were too little to understand. He didn’t cast out the elderly because they were irrelevant. So why do we? Why do we make a big deal about whether you get dunked or sprinkled instead of celebrating that someone came home to the Father? Why don’t we welcome the town drug addict when they walk through the doors instead of whispering behind their backs?
We need to tend the light again. We need to let the world know exactly where we are, use our differences to compliment other believers, and grow the city to the magnificence its Founder intended.