“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
Oh shoot, somebody’s here. Better turn off the Christian music.
I’m embarrassed to say that those exact words ran through my mind early yesterday morning. I was setting up in the operating room. On the days I work as an anesthetist, I like to draw up medications before anyone else arrives. Yesterday, I turned on my laptop, selected a Christian radio station and prepared for the surgical slate while godly musicians serenaded my soul.
A peaceful way to start the day—but it didn’t last long. Others started to come in: the cleaning staff to wipe everything down; then the nursing staff to prepare the instruments, drapes and machines; and, eventually, the surgeon. However, as soon as I heard voices in the corridor, I switched stations, nervous that others would hear “Jesus” or “God” or some other churchy lyric on my sound system.
Instantly I was convicted. Why did I have this reaction? Would I feel the same way if they walked in to heavy metal, opera or any other non-mainstream music? Probably not. Why did I cower inside when others heard me enjoying Christian music?
Three questions came to mind:
(1) Am I ashamed of Jesus? The apostle Paul certainly wasn’t: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). Jesus made it clear what would happen if I hid my faith completely: “Whoever denies me before men, I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 10:33).
No, I don’t think it’s shame that makes me switch the station. After all, I’m fairly open about my church involvement. During small talk I usually drop hints that I attend church regularly and studied at a Christian university. I’ve got no issues with that (anymore).
So if I’m not ashamed of Jesus himself, (2) am I afraid to look like a fool for being associated with him? The Bible says that those in the world will always see the gospel as foolishness: “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). Hmm, that’s some of what made me change the station. Letting others see the side of me that listens to songs that glorify God was strangely unnerving.
If it’s not the first possibility and only some of the second, then (3) am I afraid of offending others with my beliefs? The gospel’s message can paradoxically bring out the worst in people: arrogance, judgement, division, wars. The truth is that people living in the dark don’t feel comfortable in the light. Any discussion involving Jesus naturally makes them defensive, change the subject or run away. “Everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed” (John 3:20). Even hearing Jesus’ name in a song has the potential to make the unsaved squirm. This, I think, is much of what drives my reluctance to be overheard listening to ‘church songs’. I’m still new to this hospital and I don’t want to cause a stir. But let’s be real: even if I’d been here for years, I still wouldn’t want others to be uncomfortable because of my faith.
However, is this a valid reason to hide my beliefs? Didn’t Jesus say he came to bring a sword? Because of Christ, people will be divided, offended and defensive. But that’s not my problem, and their potential negative reaction towards me shouldn’t affect how I am. In the words of DC Talk:
What will people think if they hear that I’m a Jesus Freak?
What will people do when they find that it’s true?
I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus Freak
There ain’t no disguising the truth
Jesus said to let our light shine before others and “blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matt 11:6). My faith doesn’t belong under a basket but on a lampstand (Matt 5:15), even if the light makes others perturbed.
Here’s what I took away from my reflections yesterday: (1) I must not be ashamed of Jesus. Ever. He’s the best thing that has ever happened to me and he’s responsible for the best parts of me. (2) I must not be afraid to look foolish for Christ’s sake. My ‘foolish’ decision to follow Jesus was the smartest thing I’ve ever done. Finally, (3) I must not hide the light that lives inside me for fear of offending others. Their discomfort with the presence (or even the thought) of God isn’t my concern. Now, I certainly don’t want to be offensive, but there’s nothing wrong with just being me. And Christ is a big part of me.
So, this morning I tried my best not to hide my faith. I didn’t change the channel from the Christian station. It wasn’t easy, but today at St Mary’s Hospital the name of Jesus was heard by two cleaning staff and four nurses out my Bluetooth speaker. If they objected or thought less of me or were offended, they didn’t say. In fact, quite the opposite happened. “Oh! I love this band!” said one nurse. “I have their whole album!” This led to us talking, in the hearing of all the others, about how fun my church’s Sunday service was, when everyone—kids and adults alike—did the actions to My Lighthouse, the song that happened to come on.
Thus, when I shone just a bit, I learned something very important about my workplace: I wasn’t alone.
Maybe you’re like me: shy to shine. But letting God’s light be seen in you, even in small ways, is vitally important for God’s kingdom, your soul and the salvation of others. So be brave. Carry a Bible, wear a cross, put on that t-shirt from church camp. Talk about your Christian book club or favorite worship concert. The essence of integrity is to act the same no matter who’s around.
When you take your light out from under the basket, those living in the dark will catch a glimpse of the God who lives in you. And your brothers and sisters in Christ—who you may not even know about—will be encouraged to shine their light too. All because you didn’t change the station.