- Brightly beams our Father’s mercy,
From His lighthouse evermore,
But to us He gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.
Let the lower lights be burning!
Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor *struggling, fainting seaman
You may rescue, you may save.
- Dark the night of sin has settled,
Loud the angry billows roar;
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights along the shore.
- Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.
The title of this blog post is "left over" from a previous visit to the site at least two weeks ago. In fact, the title was all I got written before something came up which was urgent. When I came back in now, it reminded me of the general intent I had had for that post and somehow it still seems significant and to need addressing, not in spite of the fact that I came in this time to address the George Zimmerman verdict situation but because of it.
A hymn that is quite old and familiar for many Christians, published by Philip P. Bliss in 1871, "Let The Lower Lights Be Burning" uses an analogy from the days of sailing ships.
The idea was that while the lighthouse served to warn the ships, sailors who were less fortunate needed lights down at the shore level to find their way to land if they had to swim for it, especially at night or in a storm. Being able to see where the shore was could prevent a man from giving up and losing hope. Preachers and religious broadcasters are the "lighthouses," in this analogy, but the ordinary Christian layman has "the keeping of the lights along the shore."
This is a morally and emotionally stormy time in America. We have people determined to create division between "black" and "white" - and the efforts of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and others on the black side are already bringing out the retorts on the white side. This is a very difficult time to maintain Christian conviction regarding unity and brotherhood in spite of race. But I believe we should, since the Scripture very clearly says, [Acts 17:26], "...And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth..." Paul was speaking to the Greek philosophers of Athens, in whose eyes everyone was either a Greek or a "barbarian." Indeed, the Jews of that time also were exclusionary, as Peter explained to the Roman centurion Cornelius: [Acts 10:28], "...You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean...."
Perhaps all of us, myself included, fail to recognize just how uniquely Christian the entire idea of interracial harmony is. Perhaps we should be less surprised than we are that, in an environment where some are working very hard to leave Christianity forgotten in the past, old turbulence is resurfacing and the calm, quiet efforts many of us have made since childhood to suppress racism in our own minds and hearts are being threatened, even internally to some degree.
Racism and negative nationalism are largely dependent on "monolithic" and simplistic views and mindsets. They usually seize on the actions of a few - although the actions of large groups are even more useful - to assert that all blacks are a certain way, or all Jews, or all Hispanics, et cetera. Those of us who have made an effort all our lives to view those who are different from us as individuals are at present like salmon swimming upstream.
The fact is that while members of a nationality or an ethnic group or a race may indeed have certain traits in common, they are still individuals with the power of choice as to whether they exercise those traits - positive or negative - and how much they apply them, and in what ways. Very few religions or races or nationalities are at all monolithic. Jews certainly are not: they have at least four different religious traditions, (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist). Islam certainly is not: it has 73 different sects. Many people are far more aware of how diverse Christianity has become than about either of those other two religions. Hindus are perhaps the most diverse of all: an Indian friend of mine in the past once responded to my asking what an "orthodox Hindu" believes by saying there is no such thing as "orthodoxy" in Hinduism. Even Mormonism, ( the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints"), in its relatively brief lifetime, has developed sects and splinters. I think most people know to some degree that they have to throw out the exceptions to cling to monolithic views of either their own group or another.
Those of us who have always tried to live out our Christian conviction by viewing fellow humans as individuals and recognizing the limitations of generalized ideas need to continue to do so. We must. "To us He gives the keeping of the lights along the shore." We are out there. I know that because I do not hold the illusion that I am superior or even tremendously unusual to have that belief or to practice it. We must listen to Jesus and so let our light shine that men will see it and give glory to God. Not to ourselves but to God.
If we really are honest with ourselves, we will admit that the Holy Spirit is what gives us the power to ride out the billows and swells of annoyance or fear or just plain frustration and keep our souls steady on dry land and keep those lights burning. Again, as Jesus said, don't hide it under a bushel. As Ronald Reagan said, we are the "city on the hill" that cannot be hid. Let's rely on the Lord for our strength and do what He said. He often works through that for His greatest results.
(See "About Me")