This is the fifth in a series of reflections on John 1.
A man named John was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him everyone would believe in the light. He himself wasn’t the light, but his mission was to testify concerning the light. – John 1:6-8 (CEB)
I wrote a lot about John last week. I guess that’s not surprising since John the Baptist is a primary character in many of our Advent texts. I like John the Baptist. I like that he challenges the status quo. I like that he isn’t afraid to speak truth to power. And I like that he knew his mission.
Especially in John’s Gospel, John the Baptist is pretty clear about who he is and who he isn’t. He stays on task and maintains simple and clear talking points. John was sent from God to be a witness and to testify. In the Greek, “witness” and “testify” are essentially the same word used as both a noun and a verb. There is nothing to suggest that John is or should be the Light. His relationship to the Light is to tell others so that they may believe.
“He must increase and I must decrease.” – John 3:30 (CEB)
I think John represents the Church. Like John, we are called to witness and testify to the Light. The only purpose of our words and actions are so that others will believe in the Light. Where I think we run into problems is when we start to think that we are the Light.
John wasn’t the Light – and neither is the Church. But so often, our budgets and programs are designed to bring people to the building. It’s easy to focus on attendance to determine whether we are fulfilling our mission. But the danger is that we, the church, become the mission, and bringing people to church becomes our goal rather than believing in the Light.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all 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 5:14-16 (NRSV)
What is your mission (and the mission of your church)? In what ways may you need to decrease so that Christ can increase?