I want you to close your eyes and picture a beautiful, tropical island. Imagine yourself walking along a white sandy beach. Feel the warmth of the sand between your toes. Listen to the soft lapping of waves as they wash against the shoreline. Catch the gentle breeze as it wisps through your hair. Bathe in the sunlight that is pouring over your body. Rejoice in the quiet serenity as you walk this beach in solitude
Doesn’t that sound wonderful? I am sure that many of us dream of living on just such an island. Island living seems so peaceful, so serene, so undisturbed, and largely disconnected from the “real world.”
For centuries, the residents of Prince Edward Island lived such a life. The island was often described as “two huge beaches separated by potato fields.” It was a beautiful and tranquil place. The islanders were distanced from the chaos of the real world by nine miles of ocean. Without a bridge to the island, you could not drive there or drive back.
But in 1997, all of that started to change. After a bitter and dividing referendum, construction began on a nine mile bridge costing nearly one billion dollars. With the completion of the bridge, the island was suddenly flooded with tourists.
To the long-time residents of Prince Edward, who were not used to such disruptions, these new visitors were unsettling and unwanted. The island suddenly became divided.
Some fiercely opposed having to deal with all these new people, others saw it as a way to create new jobs, new businesses, and new income, as well as a welcome end to incredibly long waits for the island ferry. With the completion of the bridge, says Robert Lewis, in his book The Church of Irresistible Influence, only one thing is certain, the island, for good or bad, will never be the same.
Robert Lewis goes on to make the following analogy. He writes, “On an island the church is always lost. Movement, by necessity is always circular, around itself and never in the mostly straight line of an on-going vision from God. Island living is sometimes monotonous, but it is capriciously comfortable and safe…then someone, some well-meaning, but dangerous dreamer, has the audacity to introduce a church referendum: To build a bridge. To go out there. All the way to them. ‘Them’ is suddenly here. And here can be there. Such a connection will bring with it change, challenges, and yes, conflicts. Most church people instinctively know: a bridge changes everything.”
This is exactly what happened when Jesus took on flesh and entered time and space. He came into a world with an “island mentality” and set forth a referendum. Look again at what He has to say in Matthew 5:13-16. He gives a blue print of what the church should be:
“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it useful again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world—like a city on a mountain glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine out for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
It’s very easy to stay in our comfort zone, our little island, and simply shout out to a lost world, pointing out all its many faults. But to step out of that comfort zone, to leave the island, and to engage the world, now that makes a difference.
Are you ready to be a difference maker?