Sunday, July 3, 2016

Testifying about the Light, which you aren't

Speaking about John the Baptist, the Gospel according to John says:
He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light (John 1:8).
John knew quite well that he was not the Messiah, nor was he the savior of the people of Israel. On the contrary, he was a man sent from God (v. 6), whose mission was to prepare the way of the Lord. He had no illusions about who he was or what his purpose was. Far from John were any delusions of grandeur or exaggerated self-concept! No, he knew quite well that he was not the Christ, nor was he the one to save the people of Israel from their sins. Rather, he was the one called to prepare the way and to call all people to repentance, so that all might believe through him (v. 7).

This is an important lesson -- believe it or not -- for those who are in any sort of ministry to learn. John was not the Light, but rather he bore witness to the Light and testified about him. So also, let none of us ever get the false idea that we are the saviors of the world and that the salvation of the persons with whom we have to do depends ultimately on our own efforts. You are not the Light, nor am I! God forbid that any of us should ever confuse ourselves for the savior to whom we are calling everyone, day and night.

Neither should you have the false impression that God's ministry is inextricably connected to your efforts. On the contrary, God is able to bring up rocks to shout the praises of Jesus if we will not (Luke 19:40), And John the Baptist himself said: Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham (Luke 3:8). In other words, God could replace you with a rock, if you show yourself unwilling and worthy of performing his ministry. He gives you the honor of the calling and the opportunity to serve him, and in this way to make yourself an instrument of divine providence in the world. But to do this well, your job must be to imitate John in this painting, and to point away from yourself to Christ who is the savior of the world:

The fact that Christian minister is not the Light about whom he preaches is also important in another respect. On the one hand, there is no denying the fact that the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you (Rom 2:24; cf. Isa 52:5). People turn away from God if they see Christians living lives which are recognizably deplorable; what good is belief in this God of yours if you yourself are not only not better than me, but even quite worse? On the other hand, the Christian who lives according to the truth and who bears testimony to God through her behavior ought to point away from herself in recognition of the grace of God. If I have done anything good whatsoever, it is because God has gifted me with both the will and ability to do his work as well as I have. If there is a light in me, it is a reflection and a gift from the true Light, who wishes to share from his fullness with you, as well.

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