Work with me here – use your powers of mental image creation – use your imagination for a moment!
Picture yourself going along a scenic highway with trees on each side of the road, wishing that you could see beyond the trees to the vista and you expected would be there. Now, on your mental roadway you come across a sign that says “Scenic Overlook Ahead”. Excitement wells up in your heart and you expect to see almost to China … well, not that far given the earth’s curvature, but you and confident you will see a long way?
You round the bend and see the sign with the arrow to the overlook. You park the car in the conveniently placed space and walk to the overlook, complete with sign that headlines VIEW.
And you see … the trees and shrubs that line the road. They have totally blocked the “scenic overlook” so that you can only wonder what you would have seen at this spot, but for the trees! I have no idea what Fork Mountain looks like, but I am sure it is wonderful since it was worth having a sign created along with a parking area, etc. It’s too bad that we can’t see it for the trees that have grown up and have blocked the view.
Being the die-hard fans of scenic overlooks, we continued our trek and came to another overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway … it reads “View SHENANDOAH VALLEY”.
Because we live in East Tennessee and have traveled this route often, we know intellectually that a view of the Shenandoah Valley is, in fact, on the other side of the trees. But you could not tell it from the overlook view, that’s for sure.
Just down the road a-piece (that’s East Tennessee for a little distance), there was another overlook and, what to my wondering eyes should appear but … the mountains encircling the Shenandoah Valley!
And then, shortly farther down the road, we saw the valley off in the distance.
Are we like the Fork Mountain overlook? Do we have a Christian witness to tell to those we come in contact with but they cannot see our witness for all the mess that surrounds us?
Think about a church congregation on Sunday morning. It is welcoming at the front door and there is all manner of information available to newcomers, including a nice man and woman extending a warm hand in welcome. The new family walks in to the sanctuary and finds a place in a pew that, unbeknownst to them, “belongs” to one of the premier families in the church. All of a sudden, tongues begin to wag about the scene that will develop when Mr. and Mrs. So and So come in and THEIR pew is taken by this visiting family. The ushers even consider asking the visitors to move, but don’t want to upset anything, especially since Mr. and Mrs. So and So have not yet arrived.
So our visitors sit undisturbed until they overhear some church members talking:
“Did you see how tight her skirt is this morning? I’m surprised her parents let her go out like that! Oh, she is in foster care? Well that is no excuse! And, did you notice the tongue piercing that boy has? Disgraceful! And he came to church like that! Oh, his single mother is in the last stages of cancer? Do you really think that forgives his unwashed and uncombed hair or his clothes that smell a bit used, shall we say! Anyone can wash!”
“Ms. MNH told me that Ms. XYZ has been sick for weeks. She said that the Deacons have not even visited her? They should be ashamed of themselves, aren’t they supposed to care for people in the church? No, I didn’t check on Ms. XYZ. Me? What? Oh no, I can’t go to her house, I don’t even know where she lives! I wouldn’t know what to say. Besides, that’s what Deacons are for!”
“Look at Mr. ASB in the choir! Who does he think he is! I’ve heard him sing in the congregation and he can’t carry a tune in a barrel. Oh, he has had voice lessons? Well I doubt that they would make any different. I think he wants to be up there to be more visible … doesn’t he have a store in the mall. I hear it is not doing so well … perhaps he is in the choir so people go to his store! It certainly isn’t because he can sing! Hahaha!”
What is the impression that this visiting family would have of our imaginary congregation? Of the individuals in our imaginary congregation? Is this that they are honoring their Savior, by backbiting, spreading gossip, belittling other believers?
Taking it out of the imaginary … Do we hide our witness with our sins so that we, in reality, have no witness at all because it has been negated by our actions? Is the overlook of our life free and clear of debris or is it so cluttered with our sins that people can’t see the love we have for our Lord because of the lack of love we have for our neighbors or for other believers?
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Let your light shine … don’t let the overlook of your life become so overgrown and cluttered that it obscures your witness for your Lord.
Father, I pray that my light is not hidden under a bushel of my own making. I pray that my light is not blown out by my critical nature and my narrow-minded thinking. I pray that my witness is not undermined by sins for which I am unrepentant. I pray that my light beams brightly for Jesus Christ through the darkness of our world. I pray that my witness is clear and that others will be drawn to Jesus, and that I would not push them away from my Lord by any act or word carelessly spoken. I pray that You would send Your Spirit to enable me to glorify You in all things, through the power of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.