“… Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned…” (Matthew 4:12-17)
At 4:30am on January 17, 1994, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake rocked Los Angeles. Shaken citizens woke up in darkness—power had been knocked out citywide. In the minutes that followed 9-1-1 dispatchers received multiple calls from alarmed residents reporting a strange phenomenon. A sinister silvery cloud, which appeared to be glowing, streaked across the night sky over the city. That cloud turned out to be the Milky Way (the galaxy we live in). They had never seen it before because the city lights had always block it out (so much for “City of Stars”).
Ironic. At one time Angelinos went up to the Griffith Observatory to be in awe of the heavens. Today we mostly go up to admire ourselves, looking down rather than up. The light of our civilization blinds us to the light of the universe. It’s strange when you think about it. Maybe we’re more out-of-touch with reality than we think in “la la land.”
I wonder how those in Galilee of the Gentiles felt about being characterized as out of touch—“sitting in darkness.” How could that be? They had the “light” of their religious heritage and the “light” of the Roman civilization! Rome gave them the world—peace, stability, and seemingly endless economic opportunities. If anything, they had too much light! Yet, as good as things might have seemed to some, their “light” was blinding. Christ came as a great light, offering true enlightenment to humanity.
Today, American Christians inhabit another enlightened civilization. We’re fond of our nation’s religious heritage and we raise the torch of liberty for the world. But could we actually be the ones sitting in darkness? Is it possible that the light of our culture is blinding us to the truth? Jesus warned his first followers to beware—this is a real possibility:
The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23)
Could Americanized Christianity be blinding us to Christ? Think about it—it wasn’t to pagans, but to Bible believing people, that Jesus came proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
In The Gospel after Christendom: New Voices, New Cultures, New Expressions, Ian Mobsby argues:
The problem with many contemporary expressions of church is that at their heart they are consumptive—conforming to the values of business and the global market. Many churches are unaware that this practice colludes with empire, division, privilege and an oppressive view of the world. This worldview is maintained by simple dualistic thinking that does violence to creation [including humanity] by demeaning it to the status of a commodity. (The Gospel After Christendom, 105)
Maybe American Christianity is more out-of-touch with reality than we realize.