As my daughter and I, and 50 other servants, exited the newly constructed 400-square-foot house built for a beautiful family of seven in the barrios of Puerto Penasco, Mexico, I humbly said:
“In every way, I have talked and written about how misaligned the church is … . What you just experienced is the very essence of the church in all her beauty.”
Quizzically, my daughter replied, “What do you mean?”
Here’s what I meant: The unity in Christ. The self-sacrificial love. The selfless service. The worship in Spirit and Truth. The fellowship and community. The grace and mercy extended. The joy embodied. The gospel preached in word and action.
That is the church of Jesus Christ.
And it was magnificent and beautiful. It was heaven and earth coming together as one. It was everything we long for in its fullness — and more.
And this was significant.
Not for what we were able to experience and receive as a result of God working among us, but significant for what God was doing through us, the Church.
A few weeks ago I watched a documentary called “Tricked,” which details sex trafficking in the United States. The victims, law enforcement officers, parents of the victims and pimps were all interviewed. While listening to and looking into the eyes of a particular pimp who was being interviewed, all I could see was emptiness, brokenness and darkness.
The way he viewed and spoke of the women as products and objects to be used and then discarded to make money without any regard for their welfare, emotions or humanity was the very embodiment of evil.
I am not talking about dirty jokes or stealing a candy bar. I am talking about an all-encompassing and pervasive darkness and evil that blankets and covers, and that works to destroy, not just our relationship with God, but our relationships with others and then ultimately ourselves.
All I could think while watching this documentary was, “My God, I am utterly powerless against this evil. What can I do of my own accord, in my own power, to push back this evil? How do I even stand a chance against such a destructive force?”
The truth is just what I thought as I watched it:
that I am utterly powerless against it.
We, together, are powerless against this force that works to break and destroy us.
And the only power in all of existence that can confront and defeat this evil, that has the power to turn hate to love, that has the power to mend what has been torn to shreds, that has the power to repair that which has been broken, that has the power to bring to life that which is dead, and that has the power to bring light into the darkest places on earth, is the power of God.
But that seems to be our greatest struggle. We limit God with our perceived adequacy, our man-made self-sufficiency, our all-too-convenient logic and convention, and our failure to see that the world is caught in a spiritual battle with evil forces that work against everything good that God intends for his creation.
If we simply trusted the power that God has given us, I wonder how much differently our world might look. Rather than believing that darkness is more powerful and is diminishing the light of Christ in the world, what if we did realize the power God has given us and then we became the means through which the light of Christ breaks into the dark places on earth?
In the same way that the people in darkness saw a great light in Jesus Christ, so the world today will see a great light again shining in the darkness through the body of Christ — that is, the church and its members.
How would that change you individually? How would that change your church? How would that change your community? How would that change the world?
In the barrios where drug abuse, alcoholism and physical violence continue the cycle of extreme poverty, the church my daughter and I were a part of that day was the light of Christ breaking into darkness.
The hands that hammered nails and feet that kicked the soccer ball with the children of the barrio was the light of Christ piercing the darkness.
The songs of worship and praise that we sang within the newly constructed home was the light of Christ invading the darkness.
The words of prayer and petition prayed over the family in their new home was the light of Christ pushing back the darkness.
The communion that we took together in unity within the home proclaimed the Good News of Christ and was the light of Christ that extinguishes the darkness.
That is what I long to be a part of each day, and not just on a mission trip — the great light of Christ shining through the church in all the dark places of the world.
That is what others long for as well.
But will we take the light of Christ into the darkness of the world?
Columbus’ Brandon Andress is a former church leader and a contributor to the online Outside the Walls blog. He can be reached at his website andthentheendwillcome.com or brandonandress.com.