This word, SHINE, has been giving me a run for my money and I’m loving every minute spent wrestling over meanings, nuances, and applications. But this week’s question has long plagued me: Can Christians Shine Too Bright?
I know you’re hoping I’ll say, “No way. The brighter the better.” But instead I want to look at this idea from another angle.
Do You Need a Dimmer Switch?
Have you ever had someone switch on an overhead light before you were ready? It hurts, right? Maybe you instinctively covered your eyes to shield them from the brightness. Or perhaps you were even temporarily blinded by the light.
Like most things in life, I can take Christian imperatives to the extreme. If the Bible says rejoice, I’m going to be joyful to the max. When the Word says write the commandments on your door posts … well, you should see some of the art on the walls in our home. If Jesus says shine, I’ll aim to be the shiniest bulb around.
I can be an overachiever like that. You, too? But I don’t think becoming a superlative is the mark of success in shining. I’ve come across plenty of Christians who could use a dimmer switch. Maybe even me, on occasion.
Shining or Blinding?
There is a delicate balance between shining and blinding. We shine too bright when we try too hard, when we’re more focused on results than relationships, when we worry more about what we’re saying than what the Word says (ouch), when we shout from afar instead of gathering together, when we talk more than we serve, and when we forget revelation is the work of the Spirit.
You might disagree with me, but I believe we have an obligation to tailor our tactics to keep from blinding those in darkness. We must be cognizant of how our shine is received. There’s nothing loving about blinding someone with the light. (Unless of course you’re Jesus blinding Paul on the road to Damascus.) After all, the goal of our shining is so that others will glorify God. Truly only the devil wins when we shine too bright and blind unbelievers to the truth. This isn’t about hiding our light, but about shining it just right.
If we make a conscious effort to properly adjust the dimmer switch in these three areas we’ll be sure to shine without blinding.
Law and Gospel
Words and Works
Relationships and Results
Law and Gospel
As a little girl, I got a whole lot of law and for a long time it blinded me to the gospel. So maybe that’s why I’m so sensitive to the shine ignited by law.
Christians who shine too bright with law say things like:
“Jesus didn’t sugar-coat the truth. Why should I?”
“Sharing the truth is the most loving thing I can do.”
“Sometimes the truth hurts.”
“The Bible says if I love the Lord I should hate evil.”
“Jesus said He didn’t come to do away with the law.”
“The Word of God is our offensive weapon.”
“Jesus told that woman to sin no more.”
But, Christians can shine too bright with the gospel, too. Sometimes they say things like:
“Jesus died for sinners not saints.”
“God loves everybody.”
“Grace is greater than any sin.”
“Jesus refused to condemn that woman.”
“We all fall short.”
“Grace covers all sin.”
“Jesus ate with the worst of the worst.”
“God only sees Jesus when He sees us.”
And they are both right.
All those statements are true. But either end of the spectrum is only half the truth. We don’t shine with God’s full glory by only sharing half His story.We don’t shine with God’s full glory by only sharing half His story. #shine #dontshinetoobright Click To Tweet
If we shine too much law, people lose sight of God’s love. If we shine too much gospel, they might be given over to lawlessness. If our focus is too heavy on the law, we bring condemnation along with the implication that our behavior has some bearing on our salvation. But ceasing sin never saved anyone. Certainly only Jesus’s sacrifice is sufficient for salvation. Yet, if our focus is too gospel heavy, we suggest God is not burdened by our bad behavior.
Neither extreme is adequate. Law alone blinds people to hope of salvation. Gospel alone blinds people to their need for a Savior. Shining too bright with either law or gospel blinds people to the truth. Jesus fulfilled both law and gospel.
Knowing how much law and gospel to apply keeps us from shining too bright.We don’t shine with God’s full glory by only sharing half His story. #shine #dontshinetoobright Click To Tweet
Words and Works
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “actions speak louder than words.” Sometimes that’s true, but all the charitable deeds we do are worthless without the Word. Yet, if I speak and do not act on the truth I share, my words are null and void.
Jesus gave weight to His words through His works. He taught the people in a language they would understand, not a bunch of words that made Him sound smart. He tended to the physical needs of the people, not just their spiritual. But He always conveyed what people needed to know. Maybe they didn’t get it in the moment. But when they saw Him hang on the cross, when they looked in the empty tomb, when they touched His wounds, when they watched Him ascend, and when He sent the Holy Spirit upon them, they got it. He backed up His words with works.
The Word may be our only offensive weapon, but it is the Spirit’s job to wield it. Not mine. His job to convict and convert. Mine to love. We shine too bright when we use the word to wound instead of heal.
This is a little scary for a woman whose work is words, but I think sometimes we need to employ fewer words and more works in order to shine just right as Christians. The Word itself says it is living and active. So shouldn’t we be, too? After all, Matthew 5:16 says people would see our good works, not our good words. When they notice our works, we can point them back to the Word.
Knowing when to speak and when to act keeps us from shining too bright.
Relationships and Results
Jesus could have just preached the Word from the roof of the Temple, but He didn’t. He got to know people. He came to walk among us. Jesus didn’t force anybody to see His truth through words alone. He gradually revealed it by His actions and through His relationships with people.
Jesus knew just what people needed.
Now you may be saying, “Well of course He did. Duh, Liz. He was Jesus.”
“And I am not.”
But Jesus modeled His method for us in His ministry. If all that mattered was results, He could have simply headed straight to the cross after Satan tempted Him in the wilderness. Jesus knew what people needed because He got to know people. They mattered to Him. He did life with them. He sat down at the table and had real conversations with people. He knew their needs and met them with just the right amount of light to produce results.
Our shine blinds people to the truth when we are too focused on finding friends OR too religious about rendering results. To shine just right, we establish relationships with genuine interest and love while understanding the purpose of these relationships is ultimately to glorify God.
Without relationship there can be no results. As we get to know others, we learn what they need to hear or see or feel. And as we work to meet those needs, the power of the Holy Spirit works in their hearts to produce results. Did you catch that? Results aren’t really even our responsibility. Our actions may be able to blind people to the light, but it is only the Holy Spirit that helps them see it.
Knowing real relationships are required for eternal results keeps us from shining too bright.
Set Your Dimmer Switch
Our shine is just right when it provides enough light for the Holy Spirit to lead people out of darkness.
We shine too bright when we take an either or approach to evangelism. It is both law and gospel. It is both works and words. It is both relationships and results. Knowing how and when to apply just the right amount of them has eternal significance.
3 ways to Keep Your Shine from Blinding
- Know People’s Needs
- Apply Law and Gospel Appropriately
- Weight our Words with Works
Lord, May my shine never blind anyone to the Light of the World. Amen.
Have you ever had anybody blind you with their light? Do you know any tricks to shining at just the right brightness?
Shining is less about our brightness, and more about our love. And that’s what we’re talking about next week!Dear Christian, does your #shine need a dimmer switch? Click To Tweet
Linking Up With
For more encouragement please join the discussions on these fabulous blog link ups – Suzanne Eller, Faith On Fire, Susan B. Mead, Faith Filled Friday, Grace and Truth, Faith and Fellowship Friday, Soul Survival, Rah Rah Link Up, Tell His Story, Sitting Among Friends, Testimony Tuesday, Planting Roots, and Fresh Market Friday, Salt and Light, and Becoming Press’s Writer Wednesday.