I’m no scientist, and by far no light physicist. But I wonder if the above diagram of the light beam split into colors also works in reverse? If you know, let me know.
But as it stands, whenever we see a picture of this well-known and common experiment, we always assume that it goes (as far as this pic is concerned) left to right.
But I wonder if that it is an equally good demonstrator of how the Spirit works thru everyday people in Christian community to progress the ‘light’ of the gospel to new people and frontiers….just with one difference: it goes both ways.
Way one: left to right and what people individually become
Imagine for a moment that each color is a different type of person/personality. The same light of the Spirit comes into their lives and some might become passionate intellectual theologians. (Let’s say they’re blue, it’s the main color of Vose seminary!) Others might be passionate and joyful evangelists able to emotionally engage with just about anyone. They might be yellows. Some find they have a heart particularly for the poor; maybe they’re reds. Other’s minister through gifts of prayer and healing. They could be greens. Hopefully you get the idea.
Way two: right to left and what Churches need.
The other way to look at it (and the major point of this article) is that the light is flowing the other way. The one coherent white beam represents the sum total of the Church’s ministry to the community and each other. The different colors are the different people (and their respective personalities, gifts and stories) that go into this coherent beam of light. All ultimately produced by the power of the Spirit of course. After all, Jesus was talking to a group when he said “you are the light of the world.”
As mentioned, way 2 sets the foundation for what I am trying to say here. The foundation is: that the light coming out of the Church to the community, even if it consists of all the other colors of the spectrum, is incomplete without the red beam…..or blue…or indigo or whichever you pick. The point is, they all need to be there in order to produce a consistent, coherent witness (or light) tailored to the time and place it finds itself in.
You’ve got to welcome all types if you’re going to see the Spirit’s light.
Now hopefully you’ll see that the ways to apply this are almost endless but I am going to apply it to one area in particular of church life that I don’t think gets really talked about that much. How we make decisions based on the future and what currency we use to weigh various voices in that process.
That’s a hopelessly complex way of saying it, so let me put it in the bluntest possible terms.
What if the different colours also could represent different generations and/or levels of experience?
Experience is no guarantee of wisdom like youth is no guarantee of fresh perspective. Being someone who works with youth, and reflecting on my own experience; I have seen inexperience and naivety produce some breathtakingly bad decisions. But growing up in churches as a pastors’ kid I have also seen some of the dumbest ideas win simply because it came from a person who had been there so long that no one dared question their social authority. As if experience, particularity in a particular context automatically = wisdom.
You can be young and out of ideas.
You can be old and still have no clue.
On the other hand; sometimes youthful exuberance blinds you from the lessons of the past while your wealth of experience blinds you to seeing the wisdom in something new. (I once asked someone who wrote off a fresh idea the question: “what if they are worth listening to precisely because they don’t know what you’re talking about?”)
So what is the solution? What is the key to wisdom, discernment and insight no matter what age you are? It seems to me to be one thing and one thing alone:
When Job spends chapter after chapter questioning God, God’s eventual answer to him was “where were you when I did all this?” In short God reminds Job of how relatively small he is compared to the enormity of who he (God) is
Each generation has to have the humility to realize that the Spirit can and does speak through the other. The more we realize this, the less we’ll bother trying to get a majority vote, and the more we’ll see consensus in decisions.
Why? because a humble attitude is the wide open door with the welcome mat rolled out to the Holy Spirit. It really is possible:
Acts 15:27-31 …..Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell. 30 The men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. 31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.
Here’s what is so astonishing about this. A room full of the biggest church ‘heavyweights’ of the day managed to find a consensus regarding some actually pretty complex public-faith questions.
You may know that this text begins with the very opposite of consensus: debate over circumcision. (Glad they sorted that one out!)
The bedrock of their unity is obvious and it’s in verse 28: ‘It seemed good to the Holy Spirit.
Many different ‘colors’ came together to show a church how to be a coherent beam of God’s light to an extremely specific time and place through and only through the unity of the Spirit.
Pride sows confusion and frustration, humility sows a peace that produces understanding by inviting the Spirit of truth.