Monday, May 30, 2016

A Charge to the Light Brigade

There were times in my childhood when I had to navigate down a dark path.  My memories of feeling safest were when I was led by an adult with a flashlight.  My adult guide would shine the flashlight on the path and sometimes back and forth into the darkness as we walked.  I felt completely safe.  Later, as I got older, I received my own flashlight and gained the confidence to walk down dark paths with Him to guide my steps.

What sensible person carries a flashlight down a dark path but does not shine it out in front, to illuminate the path?  Possessing the light is useless unless it is directed by the light bearer and "shone forth".  This is truly "walking in the light, as He is in the light".  (1 John 1:7)

In Ephesians 5:6-14 Paul is describing the resplendent walk:

Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for God’s wrath is coming on the disobedient because of these things. Therefore, do not become their partners. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light— for the fruit of the light results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth— 10 discerning what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what is done by them in secret. 13 Everything exposed by the light is made clear, 14 for what makes everything clear is light. Therefore it is said:
"Get up, sleeper, and rise up from the dead,
and the Messiah will shine on you."

Previously, in the verses just prior to these, Paul exhorted believers to imitate God by walking in His love.  Here, he begins to talk about our associations with others.  There are times when love must be courageous.

First, he warns us of making alliances with phony Christians - - - those ungodly deceivers who talk a good game, but who have souls empty of the Holy Spirit, who have no flashlight at all.  He labels them as still walking in darkness, that is, not having experienced the salvation of Jesus Christ, regardless of their words.  Indeed, their actions stand in direct conflict with their words.  We are not to line up with them or to become partners with them.

Secondly, since we have the light of life in our hearts, we are not to participate in "works of darkness".  Ok, so, we are to walk in the light, down the path of life, and avoid sinful behavior.

Thirdly, and this is very, very unpopular today - - - we are not merely to go skipping down the path shining our light along the way, refusing to participate in sin.  In verse 11, Paul goes a step further, saying we are to expose the sin that surrounds us.

In a recent Sunday School lesson the emphasis was on learning from, and coming back from, failure.  The majority of the discussion focused on the "crash and burn" types of failures, where we made an unfortunate choice, or an error in judgment or a naive decision and came to an unfortunate condition called "failure".  Well and good.
However, I pointed out that perhaps an even worse failure is the kind where we refuse to obey the Word of God.  Verse 11 of this passage is one such example where in modern-day America followers of Jesus Christ have failed.

There is a pernicious lie which has permeated much of Christendom since the mid-1950s.  It says, "Live and let live."  I can remember seeing this slogan on bumper stickers in years past.  A more modern incarnation of this philosophy is the popular "Coexist" bumper sticker.

In other words, "you do your thing, and I'll do mine."  "You leave me alone, and I'll leave you alone."  The problem with this is that it has resulted in an ever-encroaching tide of godlessness across our nation.  It's not quite as egregious as anarchy, "anything goes," because Christian people would have openly rebelled against that philosophy.  However, it is equally pernicious.  Death by inches, as opposed to one, swift blow.

Case in point:
On June 25, 1962, nearly 54 years ago as of the date of this writing, the U.S. Supreme Court removed daily, corporate prayer from the public schools of this nation.  One year later, Bible reading followed.1  The court's reasoning on this matter was that, although Bible reading and prayer had been taught in public schools for the previous 100 years of American public schooling, somehow it came to amount to "establishment of a particular religion." This was a lie, but the American church bought it, and did nothing to stop it.  The truth is that the Bible's tenets, like it or not, formed the foundational moral principles of Western Civilization.  (Ask an American law student, who is familiar with Old Testament law.)   It was Christianity which civilized and modernized Europe in the 1400s-1500s.  It was Christianity that under-girded American civilization for this country's first approximately 175 years.  Instead of standing up to the lie perpetuated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1962 and '63, the American church hid its flashlights under its jackets.  As the past 50 or so years have rolled on, additional losses of freedom have followed, one after another, until this assemblage of 50 states, though still in some ways "united" are certainly not "one nation under God".

Walking down the path, boldly shining the light into the darkness takes tremendous courage.  It is much easier to "go with the flow", to "get on board", to "go along to get along".  The original publish date of this post is Memorial Day, May 30, 2016, a day on which we Americans commemorate and revere those men and women whose courage led them to serve our country and to make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives, on our behalf.  They died fighting those who had been identified as enemies to our country and to our freedoms.

The Charge of the Light Brigade
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!' he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd ?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre-stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade ?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder'd.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

The battle this famous poem describes was the result of a British military blunder, a miscommunication between a general and his subordinates during the Crimean War.  Yet, these soldiers did not question their orders, nor did they shrink from the battle.  They charged forth into the Russian army, heedless of the enemy's numbers, and made military history for their bravery, so much so that "all the world wonder'd".

As Christians, a Light Brigade, we have no need to fear that our "General" is wrong-headed or confused.
Most of the 12 disciples of Jesus died martyrs' deaths, rather than renounce the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They were not content to "live and let live".  They were certain and single-minded, shining their lights so brilliantly and blindingly that the darkness, for a time, fled.

The same challenge given to these heroes has been also given to us.  Will we take it?  Paul uses a well-known saying (even we don't know for sure its source) in verse 14, when he shakes us by the collar to say, "WAKE UP! Rise up from the dead souls who surround you!"  Will each of us who claims the name of Jesus Christ, who bears His light shine?  Will we courageously expose the deeds of the unrighteous in our world, as the Lord gives each of us opportunity, no matter the personal cost, so that all the world wonders at our outrageous love for our Lord?

Father, thank you for giving me your Holy Spirit, the Spirit of my Lord, the Light of Life.  Every day You give me opportunities to shine Your Light into dark places, to expose and opposed wickedness.  May I shirk not the challenge or shrink from the battle!  May I emulate the example of my Lord, who did not retreat from the agony of the Cross, as well as those courageous saints who have gone before me in this ages-old war.  In Jesus' name, amen.




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