The time for the summer “City Lights” has come and gone. What in the world is going on over there in the Bronx? They’ve dropped the ball! Is anybody home? Did things just fall apart after Bob and Jeannie Hall left??
Well…no, things haven’t fallen apart. But Bob and Jeannie are sorely missed, as you’d imagine. And yes, the summer issue of “City Lights” fell through the cracks.
As Jack (my father) likes to say, “No one is indispensable…but everyone is irreplaceable.” We cannot replace Bob and Jeannie. We cannot duplicate the particular warmth, zeal, and steadiness with which they invested in their relationships and responsibilities here in our church.
For many years, Bob faithfully produced this humble newsletter. He has shared his wisdom, his struggles, his concerns—and his heart for the gospel and the impact it can make in this dark city.
While these two dear friends, Bob and Jeannie, have moved on to watch the gospel illuminate lives in a different context, we in the Bronx Household of Faith continue on here, convinced of this life-shaping truth:
The “light” we bring to the city is not an agenda; it is not a philosophy or a program; it is not a bare system of truths or even the love that flickers and falters within our own hearts. No, the light that dawns every single morning over the darkness of our city—over every place—is a person.
Until God extinguishes the sun, each day its quiet, powerful rays will speak of Jesus Christ and the power of his grace to overcome darkness.
No one (to my knowledge) has ever tried to keep the sun from rising. No one can prevent the day from dawning. And so life continues on the earth.
In the same way, we Christians here in our little sliver of the hemisphere wake up every day with reason to live in hope: we can navigate this city because the light of the world is shining today, once again.
Jesus himself promised to illuminate his people’s lives. “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12).
I’m sure there is a whole lot to this verse I haven’t seen or learned yet. I am quick to complicate and overthink, trying to come up with sophisticated interpretations of what “the light of life” might mean. At it’s most basic level, though, surely it means this: Jesus. The first line makes it clear: “I am the light.” Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me—has me.”
How can this truth brighten our lives? Several ways come to mind:
For one thing, Christians are given and taught freedom from shame. Shame feels like death. But Jesus gently reminds us: “I already died for those shameful deeds.” The light of the world shines into our darkness, exposes our most shameful deeds and attitudes and thoughts—as having already been dealt with justly. He was shamed in our place. He beckons us to approach his Father boldly, because the light is with us. The life-giving message of Jesus Christ is that he knows how bad we are and has loved us anyway. Loves us enough to welcome us and change us.
The light of life also gives us and teaches us freedom from listlessness. There really is purpose to life. There really is a reason to study the Bible, for example, because it is a way that Jesus actually deepens his relationship with us. It is a real way to get to know the God who is there—the God who is here—the God we will see one day, face to face. But the light is with us now. So there is also reason to engage in the nitty-gritty details of work, family, politics—“mundane” stuff. When we belong to God, everything we do is done for him and before him. It is meaningful because it is part of a relationship with the God who owns everything.
Finally, the light of life gives us and teaches us moral stability. It can be easy to take for granted the wisdom of God’s Word and God’s ways. But imagine your life with no boundaries. Imagine what we would be like if every sinful impulse of our hearts was given free rein to lead wherever it wanted to go. We’d probably be dead right now. But instead, because Jesus, the light, is with us, “we have fellowship with one another”—and God uses that to shape, refine, cleanse us. And “our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” The light is with us. We walk in the light by learning to confess and confront our sin—and that actually does lead to healthier relationships with others and with God.
Another way to say all this is if God’s grace is ours, then Christ is with us wherever we go. So as recipients of that grace, we blink our way into each morning sustained by the life-giving light of Jesus Christ.
And by that Spirit who enables us to look to Christ and live for him, we look up each day and turn to each other—and for God’s glory, to those in darkness he’s put in our path—and we say, “Look!”
A few hundred miles north, in Massachusetts, Bob and Jeannie are looking up as well. How grateful we are to be partners with them, and with all of you, fellow partakers in the grace of God—fellow children of the light.