How Dark is the Darkness?Chip Bugnar
Sometimes, after the sun sets over our neighborhood in Chelsea, I watch my neighbor set up his massive telescope in his front driveway. Occasionally I join him, and we take turns, pressing our eyes into the lens, and immediately it's like we are transported to another dimension. The sheer magnitude of the expansive array of God's creation and the clear contours of the stars and the moon are breathtaking.
One day he said something that surprised me.
Even with a telescope as powerful as his, Chelsea suffers from what he called "light pollution," which I had never heard of before. Light pollution occurs when light density from urban centers, like Birmingham, crowds the sky in ways that are not perceivable to the naked human eye. He pulled out an application on his phone that tracks "light pollution" and showed me the darkest place in Alabama, which would be ideal for beholding the distinctive contours of the planets, stars, and moon. The edges of lights in the heavens are blurred by diluted darkness, diluted by man-made sources of light on the earth.
It made me wonder if the church suffers from a kind of light pollution. Here is a question to ask yourself: if someone lives their whole life and never hears the gospel message, can we expect to see him or her in heaven? (It will be better if you pause for a moment and really wrestle with your answer to that question.)
Your answer to that question reveals if light pollution has crept into our mindset about the necessity of global missions.
I've seen this in my own heart. I can go through my day-to-day and behave like a functional pluralist. A pluralist operates on the assumption that there are multiple ways to God and to heaven. What I am doing when I function in this mindset is that I basically inhibit a world of diluted darkness where I can easily slip into thinking man-made sources of light are enough to see God's truth and to save from God's wrath. The distinctive edges of the gospel message are blurred by light pollution when I assume humanity will be fine without hearing the gospel proclaimed. The gospel becomes just another ray of light in a crowded world of messages from other religions and other systems that have some light within them as well, and the urgency for gospel mission is diluted. If the gospel becomes a ray of light among many, and not the only ray piercing the darkest of dark, then the sacrifices necessary to see it shine abroad will wane. Our passion to go and to give will be crowded by diluted darkness and competing lights.
The gospel is the only hope for a world in darkness. Think of this: the good news of Jesus Christ is the only message that generates hope from a "though" or "although". Every other religion in the world builds a case for hope on a "because" that centers on the results of actions done by the one craving hope.
"Because you did this, you will be accepted."
"Because I did this, I am either being rewarded or punished."
That's the man-made light of every man-made religion. It computes with the human mind because it is built around merit or lack thereof. It is a system built on works.
This is not the Bible's message. The Bible builds a case for hope built on God's honest recognition of just how dark it is and God's hope-giving ray that pierces the night with the stunning words built on an "although". It works both ways- toward our lack of merit and toward his surprising generosity.
Isaiah 1:18 (CSB) "Come, let's settle this," says the LORD, "Though your sins are scarlet, they will be as white as snow."
2 Corinthians 8:9 (CSB) "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: Though the ways rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich."
Although humanity deserves judgment, God saves through Jesus. Although He didn't have to, Jesus saves sinners. "Although" is just another way of saying the gospel message pierces the darkness with grace for a world in need.
So, church, is the darkness outside of a saving relationship with Jesus Christ still dark to us? Is our passion for the light to shine reflective of its distinguishing marks in a world of man-made religions? Will we lean into the sacrifices necessary to platform the light to all peoples? That's the privilege we have in Global Offering.
Into darkness, Brook Hills, let's send the only light.