I was sitting with Ken in Donkey Coffee this past summer, getting to know him and talking shop about church. He worked at a local congregation and I had just started full time with ROC. After a pause in the conversation, Ken asked me:
Don't you think Athens is a spiritually dark place?
I was taken aback. I never thought of my town as "spiritually dark." There are plenty of churches and ministries throughout Athens, I thought. How could anyone say that?
John the Evangelist compares one in spiritual darkness to a blind man who stumbles around, having no idea where he is going (1 John 2:10-11), and such a person can't really grasp Christ (John 1:5). Are people really stumbling around? It seems like plenty of folks around the university are confident in how right they are and how wrong the gospel is. The last thing they would admit is that they don't know where they're going in life.
"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
How can Jesus' words break through to this culture today? Are we waiting on our neighbors to teach themselves about Christ? Are we content to sit back, cluck our tongues disapprovingly, and say "God, I thank you that I am not like other people"?
Jesus was not content with staying in well-lit places: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Yes, there is spiritual darkness here in Athens. Yet I also see a network of gospel light, surrounding and permeating the OU campus and culture. It is followers of Jesus who show and tell a better life with God. Here at ROC, we want to put a spotlight on Jesus uptown and down the hall, and we’re going to do that by first loving our neighbors through friendship and service. And that means stepping out of the ROC House, out of our circle of Christian friends, and out of our comfort zones.
The Pharisees asked, Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? I hope that we can have a good time and raise some eyebrows, just like Jesus did.