All of the world religions hold some inclination toward helping those less fortunate. Spiritual schools of thought and secular morality structures such as humanism also aim to better the lives of those who endure hardships. Christian teachings encourage followers to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, and set prisoners free. This requires reaching out to people who probably have a different life than oneself and leading them to a life of faith and goodness. That sounds great in theory, but I know it is easier said than done, especially for many Christians today.
There is a fear in the Christian community that if one reaches out to those in the shadows to pull them into the light, that those in the light will instead be pulled into the shadows. So, is it good and wise for Christians to leave the safety of the flock to help the lowly in an act that might be trying to their faith? Or do they stay well within the boundaries of the Christian community to protect and grow their faith? In The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel, the pastor of what I would consider a modern ‘mega-church’, encourages Christians to pull others into the light. This could be through subtle means such as simply setting a good example through one’s words and actions, sharing one’s spiritual journey, inviting someone to church, or directly confronting sinful or misguided elements of someone’s life (210). And yet he not only warns of mingling with non-Christians, but tells followers to let go those in their lives that do not further their spiritual efforts, “If you’re surrounded by naysayers or other [dangers] to your progress, ditch them” (137). I heard similar sentiments while researching a Christian group at my alma matter. Followers were encouraged to cut out people that did not bring them into a closer relationship with God.
So how do both concepts exist side by side? Sinners aren’t likely to walk through the front door of a church. Some reaching out will be necessary. Are followers to stay with the flock while beliefs and spiritual disciplines are being established, only venturing out to help others once they have unwavering, rock-solid foundations? Can lay people, everyday believers improve the level of their own spirituality and that of those around them, and perhaps those that need it most? Can we help ourselves and others?
Can you speak from experience about a time where you or someone you know pulled another into the light? Can you think of the opposite scenario where you or someone you know was pulled into the shadows in an attempt to help? How do you perceive these two principles existing together? If not, which prevails?
Groeschel, Craig. The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but living as if he doesn’t exist. 2010. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.