But God calls us into light

1 Peter 2:9-12 You are a chosen people, royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light . . . Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.

Philippians 1:27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. (See also Hebrews 11:13-16.)

One of the tenets Mom lived by was, “Always leave a place better than you found it.” As kids, we didn’t appreciate the extra cleaning, weeding, or whatever she deemed necessary to leaving a place better, such as the mission housing where we stayed when we visited Guatemala City, or the Panajachel lake property belonging to another mission where we went for vacations. Nor did we necessarily like the accompanying song, “Brighten the corner where you are.”

But Mom’s maxim is striking me today as an apt expression of Christian teaching in relation to the world we live in, whatever the country or circumstances. When our brief stay on Earth ends, will we leave it better than we found it?

I’m asking this question both as an individual and as part of the great international unshakeable Kingdom (Hebrews 12:27-28), embodying Jesus, his hands and feet here until he comes back, offering to him our first loyalty. If Jesus were here, how would he view the church’s track record in the place where you live? What would he care about? I suspect our personal safety, comfort, prosperity, and “rights” wouldn’t be as high on his list as how we are caring for others, wanting to leave a better world not only for our own children and grandchildren but also for other people’s children and grandchildren.

One thing is crystal clear: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). To save, not to condemn. To love, not to hate. To welcome, not to reject. To serve. To care and heal. To understand, not to judge. His stance wasn’t popular. He was criticized even by his “own” people (Matthew 11:19). It wasn’t about being “nice.” It cost him his life.

Today, on this Fourth of July here in the U.S., I’m asking myself: How can I add light and hope, Jesus-style, rather than deepening the darkness and gloom so pervasive locally, nationally and internationally? I believe he will show me my small part, if I open my heart and listen.

You are the light of the world . . . let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16).

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