By now most of us have heard the news about the total solar eclipse that will take place this Monday, August 21. It will be the first such eclipse visible from the United States since 1979. From Oregon to South Carolina, people are making their plans and securing their eclipse glasses in order to behold the uncommon sight of the moon blocking the sun’s path in relation to the earth and the darkness that results from it. I understand that even in Birmingham we’ll be able to see at least a partial eclipse.
All the excitement, of course, stems from the rarity of the phenomenon. We are biologically wired for twelve hours of sunlight this time of the year, and the experience of seeing the sun blotted out for the 160 seconds in the middle of the day is something too compelling to miss. That’s why eclipse parties have been put together and special promotions have been launched all across the central region of the country. I have a potter friend in Gatlinburg who’s come up with a solar eclipse stamp for the mugs he hopes to sell to the tourists who come to that spot to view the atmospheric wonder.
Even churches are getting in on the act. In Princeton, Kentucky, which is supposedly only a couple of miles away the focal point of totality for the eclipse, several churches have organized a three-day festival, called SolQuest, which aims to point eclipse watchers to the light of Christ. As the lead coordinator Harrell Riley puts it, “This is a once in a lifetime event that only God can do and if you miss it, you miss it.” Riley then compares the event to the opportunity all persons have to experience salvation, which he and the others heading up the emphasis hope to impress upon the multitudes that gather.
I find that effort laudable. I think it’s terrific that those organizers would have taken the time to think about how they might leverage this phenomenon for the sake of the gospel. But in the light of what just took place this past week in Charlottesville, I can’t help but think about how we might also leverage it in a similar way to call attention to the far too frequent times we block out the light of Christ through our insensitive, mean-spirited, and prejudiced attitudes and actions toward others who look differently and think differently than we do, and who come from different contexts. If as the Bible clearly teaches, God created all persons “in His image” (Gen. 1:26) and is “no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34), then anytime we fail to treat any person with decency and honor, we obstruct the light of God’s presence and make the darkness last far longer than God ever intended.
There is a better way to live together in the light of God’s salvation, a way that magnifies the glory of God’s redemption made possible through Jesus, who, as we learned to sing long ago, “loves the little children of the world.” When we dare to show such love in our everyday relationships, we can be certain that his light “will shine in the darkness, and the darkness will overcome it not” (John 1:5). Perhaps then might the world move with awe and wonder in our direction, as we become a sight for their sore eyes and a balm for their (and our) sin-sick souls.
“In the same way, let your let shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).