EXPRESSIONS OF FAITH
Let's all try to shine in darkness
By the Rev. Dr. Rick Bartosik
The men of our church traveled to Moloka'i for our annual retreat. After dark, a member who grew up on Moloka'i took us to the beach. After chasing crabs for a while, we turned off the flashlights and just sat there, looking up into the heavens. It was a cloudless and moonless night and the stars seemed especially bright. We didn't want to leave. The stars made us stop and wonder.
I was reminded that beautiful evening of a word picture the Apostle Paul uses comparing authentic Christians to stars: "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe" (Philippians 2:14-15).
There is something beautiful and mysterious about stars. There is also something beautiful and mysterious and compelling about a life that is lived in a vibrant relationship with God. People notice it. They stop and wonder about it.
When Paul says we are to "do everything without complaining and arguing," he is using the same word we find used for the people of God in the Old Testament, who grumbled their way through the desert. They complained about the food, the water, almost everything. Paul is telling us not to live that way.
So many people are complainers. It seems to be a way of life. But what a difference it would make if we all gave up complaining and criticizing!
The stars seemed brighter that moonless Moloka'i night. They were not really any brighter. It's just that the sky was darker so they appeared more brilliant and luminous.
The city of Philippi in the first century, before the Gospel came, was a dark place spiritually. When Paul arrived there wasn't even enough of a godly presence for a synagogue to be established. Paul found only a small group of women meeting for prayer by the river. But Paul said to those new Christians: "What an opportunity you have to shine, to make a difference."
Paul would say the same thing to us today. We ought to be concerned about the moral and spiritual decline of our culture. But at the same time, we can use it as an opportunity to let the character of Christ shine through us! In a marketplace driven so often by dishonesty, greed and compromise, we can be people of integrity. In a sexually confused society, we can receive our sexuality as a gift from God and protect it by pure relationships. In a culture that says we have to have the newest and biggest and best to be happy, we can be content with what God gives us and generous with all we have.
As our culture turns more and more away from our Judeo-Christian heritage, it will increasingly be said of authentic Christians that they are different from everyone else. That can be difficult, because we all like to feel accepted. But rather than whining about it, let's rejoice at the opportunity.
Remember that the darker the night, the brighter the stars shine.
The Rev. Dr. Rick Bartosik is senior pastor of Mililani Community Church and an instructor in Bible and theology at International College and Graduate School. He formerly served as a correctional chaplain in Hawai'i for 14 years.