Looking for Light in the Darkness

Looking for Light in the Darkness

By Stacey Tuttle

I was recently researching some books written as a Christian response to – and/or critique of – a very popular book (and now movie) series.  The series itself is not the point and so will remain unnamed.  What is important, however, is a comment that I stumbled upon in one of the reader’s reviews of one of these particular books.  Basically, the reader was disappointed because she felt this particular book mostly criticized the series in question when she was presumably looking for praise or a way to make the series good and/or valuable.  Specifically, she commented that she was looking “for the light within the darkness and not the darkness within the gray areas.”  [1]

I haven’t read the book yet, but I’m ultimately not that concerned with whether or not I agree with either author (the book’s or the comment’s).  The thing it made me question though was on a more general level.  Are we irritated when someone says darkness is darkness because we so want to have a shred of light to hang on to and justify our current passions?  Are we desiring true light, or do we flirt with gray matter, annoyed when someone calls us to leave the gray behind and come to the light?  In other words, are we looking to defend our interests (such as books, movies, hobbies, relationships, etc.) with the Bible, or are we looking for ways to use those interests to connect others with the Bible.  Between the Bible and our interests, we ought to ask ourselves, “Which has become the point and which has become the tool?”

Shepherd Project Ministries (SPM) focuses on exploring strategic intersections of faith and culture, so I spend a lot of time watching movies, reading books, researching what’s “big” – all with the hope of finding ways we can use those things to find “common ground” – a place to begin a conversation that will lead to talk of Christ.

But, there’s a fine line.  I was that person who could usually argue from any side…or more importantly, perhaps, make any side argue my point.  I remember helping a friend with a project in High School.  They had to do an art project and then write an explanation how that abstract art was symbolic of Moby Dick in some way.  No problem!  I told my friend to just take some cool photos.  Bring me a couple of favorites and I would find a way to make one symbolic of whatever point she wanted to make.  I think we need to be careful we don’t do the same thing with our faith and our culture.

Like I said, it’s a fine line.  It would be so easy for me to find an angle to justify why any movie or book, etc. I liked was valuable because of some “good” lesson in it.  I could pretty well always find a claim to some light in the darkness if I wanted to – even when I knew that the overall effect was to lead me further from THE Light.  In fact, I confess I have been guilty of the charge on many occasions.   It’s like arguing that a piece of chocolate cake is good for you because one of the ingredients was an egg.  Any health benefit of the egg is negated by the calories, sugar and fat in the cake.  If you need more protein, let me suggest the egg-white omelet.  And if you need more light, let me suggest Jesus!  

I think the real heart of the matter comes down to your motives and your heart.  As my pastor in Texas, Matt Chandler, has said, “What are the things which stir your heart, your passions for Christ?  And what are the things which rob you of your affections for Him?” We need to be careful not to look for ways to spiritualize those things which rob us of our affections for Christ, remembering those things are at best but tools to lead others to Christ.  The Bible is not a tool to justify our interests.

It’s kind of like that question, “How far is too far?”  We ask that question in a million different ways of a million different topics.  Though we tend to think we reserve it for dating, the truth is we ask it in every flirtation we have with the world.  Whether it’s a love of money or power or a novel or a fixation with beautify and appearance.  We spend so much time trying to answer that question, when in reality it’s the wrong question.  It reveals a heart whose desire is to get as close as it can to trouble, to sin, without feeling any of the negative consequences that come from it.  The right heart desires to get closer to God and instead asks of Him, “Lord, how far should I flee?”  The right heart pursues things which stir its affections for God and forsakes pursuits which distract or rob its affections for God.

It boils down to this: Are you looking for the “light in the darkness” in culture and in your interests, etc. for the sake of justifying them?  So that you can hold on to them the more tightly?  Or are you looking for the “light in the darkness” so that you may use the culture and your interests, etc. as tools to help lead others to the Source of all Light?  Is the Bible a tool you use to show why the things you like are good?  Or are the things you like tools to show others why the Bible is good? 

Please know that our heart at SPM is to help stir your affections for Christ and to equip you to use those intersections of faith and culture to stir the affections of others for Christ.

[1] Margaret A. Chind, review of Touched by a Vampire:  Discovering the Hidden Messages in the Twilight  Series, posted on Amazon.com; http://www.amazon.com/Touched-Vampire-Discovering-Messages-Twilight/product-reviews/1601422784/ref=cm_cr_pr_link_4?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&pageNumber=4