Boom. Suddenly all the lights went out in the conference center where we were staying. Just as we were all making our way out of our rooms and down the long hallway to breakfast.
The hallway was longer than usual that morning. Totally dark. Turns out the entire region had experienced a power failure. Because a squirrel got into a relay station and gnawed through a cable. Fried squirrel. Lights out.
But the problem that day wasn't the darkness - darkness is always dark. The problem was the failure of the light.
Many Christians are lamenting what they perceive as the growing spiritual darkness around them. Fewer people identifying themselves as Christians. More people identifying themselves as nonbelievers. Long-time moral boundaries eroding or collapsing.
But when it's dark, the problem isn't the darkness. It's the failure of the light. And Jesus said to His followers, "You are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14). It appears something's wrong with the light.
I can think of two ways we're failing our world - and our Lord. One has to do with a flawed message - that obscures the true Message. But that's for next time. The light is so often obscured, though, by...
1. Flawed messengers.
Over and over, a watching world sees well-known Christians suddenly disgraced by a dark secret. Pastors, megachurch "stars," TV personalities, athletes, politicians. And folks who don't like the message can now find another "hypocrite" to hide behind.
The sad fall of a prominent Christian is a teachable moment - underscoring three critical realities.
1) Each Jesus-follower's life is either a reason for someone to check out Jesus or rule out Jesus. If I drift away from Jesus, I take watching unbelievers with me.
That's why Paul said, "We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ." And Peter said, "Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then, if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God" (1 Corinthians 9:12; 1 Peter 2:12).
My little "sin fling" or spiritual detour will cost me God's blessing. It could cost those watching me their eternity.
2) Every time a public Christian is discredited, the importance of the everyday Christian is elevated.
The Christian in a seeker's life has far more impact than any Christian in the spotlight. I am the face, the voice, the proof of Jesus to the unbelievers in my personal world. For better or worse. It's always important that I walk the talk. It's exponentially important that I'm consistent when there's been a public Christian disgrace. When they see me, they must be able to see Jesus.
3) The failure of the messenger doesn't change the truth of the message.
Jesus said, "Follow Me." Not follow My followers. He said, "I am the Way" (John 14:6). Not, "I will show you the way." He told us, "I am the resurrection and the life...he who believes in Me will live, even though he dies" (John 11:25). Not, believe in someone who practices the Christian religion.
Jesus made it all about Jesus. So while a hypocrite may provide an excuse for not believing, they don't provide a valid reason. Because it's what we do with Jesus that determines our eternity.
In the end, it isn't about Christians. It isn't about Christianity. It's all about Jesus. The Man who loved me enough to die for me. Who's powerful enough to walk out of His grave. The unfailing Light.