“Pushing Back the Darkness”
We hear this term often in Christianity. I used to think that it was walking in with moral standards blazing. Sadly my own righteousness is frail without grace, and would be a folly to stand under. When I walk in my own righteousness, I have a false sense of entitled bravado that is actually off-putting. This elitist mentality is a hang-up for those who don’t believe in Christ, because it gives off a sense of “better-than” and impossible perfectionism that seems stifling. (Because it is.) So what does it really mean?
There was a time when I was younger in my faith, that I thought that in the end times the masses of unbelievers would just walk into churches, and become saved without me doing anything. I believe I thought that the Holy Spirit would just prompt that many people to enter the church doors. Through the years, I have come to think that this was a huge misconception on my part. Instead, in our times, many people are leaving the church, and even the faith. While I do believe that there are churches out there that understand reciprocity in relationship, I think that there are some in which the leadership lords over its flock, expecting perfection while having no scruples themselves. There are many with a “do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do” attitude. I actually don’t want the masses of unbelievers going into churches like those. They would only end up scarred, and even lose their newly found faith, or become a brain-washed sheep.
On a side-note, I don’t believe that there is a “perfect” church, anymore than I believe there is a “perfect” person. However, there are certain types of churches that should be avoided, just like there are people who should be. If one shouldn’t invest time into a friendship that is harmful, it should go without saying that one shouldn’t invest time in a church that is. Even so, there are some good people who shouldn’t be friends with other good people, just because it doesn’t click or there is something about that person that isn’t helpful for the other. This should be understood with what church one attends too.
So, returning to “pushing back the darkness”, if the answer isn’t masses coming to our churches with us not doing any work, then what is? In our physical world, darkness is the absence of light. I feel that this is true in the spiritual aspect also. Too many times, I’ve heard Christians complain about the growing darkness, and say it is the entertainment industry’s fault, or the fault of current parenting skills, or the public school system. However, if the darkness is growing, wouldn’t that mean our light is fading?
I didn’t intend to go down the path of perfectionism and elitism when I started writing this post, but I think that God wanted me to. I’ve found in my life that perfectionism is due to fear of failure. I think that this is a common human condition. None of us like to be wrong, because in the past we’ve been punished for our mistakes. Sometimes this correction was done in love, but there are many who have suffered punishment for wrongs that was unequal to the “crime”. As I mentioned above, there are churches out there, (and I’ve been to a few of them,) that “punish” you for mistakes you make. Sadly, it is because how they were raised as children or how they were raised spiritually. So, they position themselves in a place of power, because it makes them feel safe.
Unfortunately, this mentality of perfection is the opposite of the work of Christ. He came to set us free from the law. It is because of grace that we are free. It isn’t our own works, or our own steadfastness. Our moral standards don’t impress people into faith. That was what the Pharisees did with their thousands of rules. They oppressed the people into the fear of the law, not the fear of the Lord.
So what is the light? The Light. 1 John 1:5-10 says this:
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[a] sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
It’s right there in the Bible that we aren’t perfect, but because of the the faithfulness and justice of CHRIST, we are made clean. It doesn’t matter how many times we mess up, the grace of God is there to pick us up. When we free ourselves of this perfectionistic need to perform, we become something phenomenal. We become “touchable”. When we try to walk in perfection, we are constantly working to put a veneer on ourselves that keeps us looking clean. In reality, we are working to cover up our humanity. Humans are afraid to touch shiny, perfect-looking things. It makes us feel dirty. I feel that perfectionism is the same. Unbelievers will avoid us because we look untouchable.
A lot of times I hear Christians say that we need to reach out to the “untouchable” or the “unlovable”. As far as the unlovable goes, that is an error of thinking that needs broken. No one is unlovable, because God loves us. If someone seems unlovable to you, it really is just a breach within yourself that you have to get past. It really means that you can’t love enough. That’s an okay place to be at, as long as you are humble enough to admit your own fallacy, and rely on God.
As far as the “untouchable” goes, that is a two-way street. People with a perfectionistic mindset want to label certain types of people as “untouchable” without even realizing that they are also that way. As I said before, no one wants to touch something so perfect looking. It seems out of our league or too hoighty-toighty. And the perfectionist, while having a good heart, doesn’t want to touch the “untouchable” out of fear of getting sullied. Who will bridge this gap?
WE HAVE TO.
- We have to give up any idea of being perfect. We have to get rid of the fear of being dirtied by the world.
- We have to be willing to be wrong. This makes us touchable. It isn’t an easy walk. Most people don’t like to give up their “perfect” veneer.
- We have to get out of our safety zones. The four walls of the church is a safety zone.
So for me, “pushing back the darkness” means that I am just a human being with a love for God and a faith in Christ, who is walking with intent to do what is right, but obviously going to fail at that. Walking in the light means going about what God wants me to do, wherever I go, just loving people. I don’t have to hit people with my standard of righteousness, because as it says in Isaiah 64:6, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags”. We can’t do it without the love and grace of Christ. He is the light within us, that pushes back the darkness as we walk where we used to fear treading.
I don’t think that I wrote this very succinctly, and I think this train of thought is a work in progress for me. Just chalk it up to thoughts I’m having, as opposed to any theology I’m trying to push.