Today I want to talk about something that might be somewhat complicated. The premise is simple, but it isn’t something that each individual need overthink; that is, while it’s something worth consideration, it is not to be taken as universal advice that every person should apply in every possible situation. Regard this as food for thought.
First, I give you a parable. A pan of water is placed on a stove-top uncovered. The water is heated and then teabags are added. Although you might ordinarily remove tea after a short while, this pot will be left to simmer indefinitely—even after the tea bags have fully released their extracts (this is a parable). After a while, the tea reaches its full strength and water evaporates. As the water molecules leave, the solution in the pot becomes darker and darker—despite the fact that no new tea has been added. More water is added, and the tea resumes a tolerable strength. The heat continues and the water evaporates again, leaving a dark bitter mess. What can be done to break this cycle?
I offer you 2 solutions: take away the heat or cover the pan and trap the water inside with the hot tea.
Another parable—perhaps a clearer one: a large group of people are gathered in an unlit room. Some hold burning candles, some hold unlit candles. Despite the fair number gathered who possess a lit candle, the room is not brightly lit. Those who hold candles obviously know that the light is good so they bear their candles to provide light to their surroundings so all near may see. However, some are dissatisfied with the brightness of the collective light and choose to leave and go elsewhere; perhaps they go somewhere that looks brighter. Maybe there are only light-bearers where they go, or perhaps they go to a room full of mirrors and the same light is reflected about. In any case, one leaves, then two. After a while the room begins to look darker and darker; more light-bearers begin to feel uncomfortable and unsafe in the growing darkness, so they depart rather than trying to light the unlit candles in the hands of those around them. From time to time, a new light-bearer enters, but some of those only look in long enough to see that the room is in great need of light before deciding not to supply aid to the need. The room needs to be lit, but none are at ease staying around to contribute to this difficult and trying cause. The room inevitably grows dark enough that few are content aside from those who have never known light or forgotten its brilliance (although even the contentedness of the latter may be illusory).
What does this make you think of? Look back at the first parable. Let the water represent individuals who claim to have tasted living water. At the end, I mentioned that there were two ways to keep the water around: trap it or take away the heat (adversity). Still, both options have their own dilemmas. It would be wrong to trap individuals somewhere they don’t want to be and would arguably do no good. Taking away the heat wouldn’t help to accomplish much either. However, there is another option regarding our individuals who have living water: they could choose to stick around. Plain ‘ol water has no will, but as people, we are able to stick around in situations that we find challenging if we so choose.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden.
No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16 CSB).
What situations, groups or circumstances do you find yourself in that feel uncomfortable? Do you see any possible benefit to others involved by you staying around a bit longer in some of these situations? Do you feel any responsibility to stick around?
Again, this informal treatise is not a call for all Christians to put themselves in uncomfortable territory and to stay there. This is by no means a request for someone to keep themselves in a situation that causes them to be tempted unnecessarily. However, I’m sure there are some of us who might occasionally run sooner than we should, and it’s selfish. Let’s be honest, we leave because we disagree with, or do not feel at ease with those around us. But if we leave, we remove one more person from the situation who sees things as we do. This only serves to further concentrate the evil or ignorance that we perceived and consequently leaves those who remain in a worse state—at least by our own personal standards.
If you who are reading this know yourself to be easily persuaded by deceivers or instigators, then revisit this writing after a time. If you who are reading this find yourself weak in your faith and prone to temptation by others, then perhaps revisit this after you’ve regained strength. If you who are reading this feel confident and accepting of challenges, still do not take this as a challenge and go out of your way to remain places you should not be; rather, examine your habitations, and before exiting, ask yourself if there be some benefit to delaying your departure for a time. Is there someone who might profit by your being there?
I wanted to share this app as another parable, but I do not see it as directly relevant. It is highly applicable in a parallel sort of way, however. The following is a commentary on segregation and race, but it can be thought of more generally. I’d like to see it adapted to complement thoughts on being present among the lost or struggling, but for now enjoy it as it is. It’s a lovely little diversion.