I have a sermon in my heart ready to be preached. Its title would be, "Just How Bright Is Your Light?" And its biblical text would be Isaiah 42:1-9. This is the first of the four "servant songs" in the book of Isaiah -- the other three being Isaiah 49:1-7; 50:4-11; and 52:13-53:12.
Since the New Testament refers to a part of this text in Matthew 12:18-21, it is likely that the servant who is mention is Jesus -- e.g. Christ, Messiah -- although to be fair, a few scholars believe it is referencing the nation of Israel. Regardless, the emphasis is upon making the light of God shine through our lives and into the lives of those living in darkness.
The MSG Bible (The Message Bible) translation has this scripture say, "I am God. I have called you to live right and well. I have taken responsibility for you, kept you safe. I have set you among my people to find them to me, and provided you as a lighthouse to the nations, to make a start at bringing people into the open, into light: opening blind eyes, releasing prisoners from dungeons, emptying the dark prisons. I am God. That's my name."
It's not easy to witness in the name of Jesus anymore. I remember in the olden days when I was attending a conference in a large city when a guy jumped up at a street corner and got right into my face as he shouted (not just declared): "Repent and turn to Jesus or you're going straight to (you know where)." I probably jumped at least 3 feet into the air and thought about running away. As I watched, he did this to almost everyone coming within a few feet of where he was. We used to call that "Street Corner Preaching."
Don't try that today. You might end up in jail -- you know, for interfering with someone's personal rights. As an endorsed chaplain, when I am serving as a chaplain, I cannot force my personal beliefs about God, the Holy Spirit, or Jesus upon anyone. Apparently, to do so is politically incorrect. Instead, we are to recognize and support every person's religious belief system, even those who are atheists.
So how are we to witness in this world of political correctness? If we look more closely at the Isaiah passage of scripture, some opportunities may reveal themselves. For instance, notice the reference to "being a light to others." It's no secret that most of us are "people watchers," watching others to see what they look like, are doing, and where they are going. However, sometimes we forget that others are also looking at us. What we do with our lives both in secret and publicly is a witness to others.
While I cannot witness to law enforcement personnel without their consent, there are some things that I can do. I have made it a practice throughout my life to pause before a meal and thank God. Also, while not trying to be judgmental, I have never become involved in alcoholic beverages. You would be surprised at how many law enforcement officers notice these two life practices. In fact, at a police dinner one time, the waitress goofed and gave my check to someone else while giving me their check. When I called attention to it, she noted that the amount was about the same on both checks and suggested that we just go ahead and pay each other's check. It wasn't that I was trying to be contrary, but the other guy's check contained alcoholic beverages and mine didn't. I felt sorry for the waitress but told her that there was no way I was going to pay for someone's alcoholic drink. I got my witness across.
Notice also the admonition to help others, especially those caught in both the dungeons and those caught in the prisons of their environment. Helping someone who is in need helps open the eyes of the blind to see the goodness around them. It's a simple witness to reply to someone's "thanks" by saying something like, "It's the least I could do. Jesus would have done the same."
People are watching. Do you go to church regularly (when the coronavirus is not present)? Do you give to your church? Where are you on the Lord's Day? How's your language vocabulary? Are you polite around others? Have you helped someone recently? On the way to church on Sunday morning, we regularly go by a golf course with many golfers. My wife used to claim they were all Catholics who went to Mass on Saturday night, but I knew differently and their witness was diminished.
You don't have to stand on the street corner and shout in people's faces, but the way you live shouts even more loudly to those around you. As Isaiah said in verse 42:6, "I have called you to live right and well." To do so is a great witness for God.
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Robert Box is the former chaplain for the Bella Vista Police Department and is currently the Fire Department chaplain. Opinions expressed are those of the author.