I read a very thought provoking quote by Saint John Chrysostom this morning that made me think a lot about the effect of choosing to hide Christ in us.
“This is why God has left the wicked in the world: so that the good may shine brighter…and the wicked gain, too, by mixing with the good. Even if they do not keep from evil, nevertheless they dare what they dare in secret. And this is no small thing, not to have sins publicly committed. For the life of the good becomes the accuser of their wickedness. ‘It hurts me even to see him,’ they say of the righteous man – and it is no small beginning of amendment to be tormented by his presence…but to be stung and pricked in the conscience when he is present would be a considerable hindrance do wickedness. So do you see how much the good gain from the wicked, and the wicked from the good? This is why God has not set them apart, but allowed them to be mixed together.”
“The life of the good becomes the accuser of their wickedness.” This is an extremely powerful and possibly controversial statement but I personally know it to be true. In my dark days, before I knew Christ, when I met a Christian who was loving, pure, patient, and compassionate it made me feel VERY uncomfortable. I can’t explain why but I just didn’t like that person very much and I couldn’t stand the sight of them. I felt inadequate around them. Their presence was like a neon flashing arrow to my mistakes and my sins.
Why do you think so many people are uncomfortable around Christians? Christians who do not necessarily even speak publicly about Christ. You can be sure that the more a Christian speaks of Christ and their spiritual life, the greater they will encounter discomfort from people in the world – even to the point of hatred.
I live in a country that preaches freedom of speech, but when I speak of my God I discover that ‘freedom of speech’ means freedom to say what everyone else is saying and believe what everyone else believes in. I did not encounter these things when I lived in and amongst the world. The world loved me – it gave me many friends, success in my studies, and a great respect from my peers.
Now? Now that I try to live in the shadow of my Lord Jesus, the world turned its back to me and I find that I am not respected like I was before.
John 15:18-25, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you, out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
Why? Because good accuses wickedness and nobody likes to feel accused. No one wants to admit that they know somewhere deep down their choices are not right. No one wants to admit that their affairs will not bring them satisfaction, acquiring wealth is nothing but a burden, drinking to oblivion leaves the soul feeling empty. Truth is painful.
I understand, I was there.
But this is exactly why God has kept and commanded His servants to mix with those who do not believe in Him (or know Him). Mark 16:15, “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” If I had not felt the accusations in my heart whenever I saw a person living truly in the faith, saw their acts of kindness and their love for God and others, I would not have pursued Christ.
I found Christ because I found people who truly reflected His image, even if they did not necessarily speak of him (though most of them certainly did). I saw His love in their eyes. I saw His compassion in their interactions with each other and myself. I saw His forgiveness in their acceptance of me. Their good deeds were always before my eyes and I heard their heartfelt, sometimes tearful, prayers to God.
It changed me. I could not be in the presence of such goodness and not desire to turn away from my wicked ways. It softened my hard heart.
So I pray for each and everyone of us that we never hide our goodness that comes from Christ alone. I pray that we let Him shine brightly within us. Someone said once that being a missionary is being full of light and opening a window. Let us all pray daily to be filled with Christ who is the light of the world.