Have you ever felt like you were just a small light in a dark world? I can assure you that light shines in the darkness and it makes a difference. The movie Green Book illustrates for us the true story of an accomplished African American pianist, who although he was broken, was attempting to be light in a dark world. He hires a man from New York who was a bouncer by the name of Tony as his driver and for protection. I will use this movie throughout this article in an illustrative way.
I want to talk about how to be light in a dark world. We know that when Jesus came to planet earth. It was a dark time. It was such a dark time that there had not been any revelation from God for 400 years. It was so dark, that the religious leaders who should have recognized Jesus did not. They failed. They rejected him. He came unto his own did not receive him. John 1:4-5 “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
The same thing is happening today in our world. It is not that there is no light. The light of Jesus is still shining in our world, but many do not comprehend it. How many of you realize that we too are the light of the world? Just like Jesus was a light so we are a light. The word says in Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
The movie Green Mile accurately portrays a dark time in American History. It is set back in 1962. Many of you might realize that in 1962 in the USA, particularly in the South, there were no churches where all races met together and there was love and harmony. It was a day when there was a huge amount of prejudice in our culture and society.
Clip one 14:00-18:15 Above Carnegie Hall
Let me give you a synopsis of the movie. Two men—one white, one black—from polar opposite backgrounds with wildly contrasting personalities get thrown together under unusual circumstances. It also happens to have been inspired by a true story. You see, in the culture of 1962 in America in the deep south, the darkness breeds all of the mistrust, and the oppression, and the prejudice that you see in this movie.
As the movie begins, Tony accepts the job with Doctor Shirley and they begin to travel and it is about the encounters that they have and there is inevitably trouble. This took place in 1962, so this shows you where you get the title of the movie Green Book and something that took place in Macon, Georgia. Tony sees a suit in a shop window, and encourages Doctor Shirley to try it on. However the manager rudely tells him that he is not permitted to try it on.
Clip Two Green Book 23:47-25:33 1:10:44-1:13:00
The look on Tony’s face as he was leaving the tailor shop is priceless. By the way that was good acting. He was remembering. If you have seen the movie the opening scenes, there were some African Americans working in his house, and much to his irritation, his wife gave them something to drink, and he went into the kitchen, and threw away the glasses that they had drank out of. Tony was completely embroiled in the darkness. As reality dawns on him he remembers his own prejudice. What makes this amazing is that this was all completely true.
How Can We Be A Light In The Darkness?
- BY REMEMBERING OUR HISTORY
Light shines in the darkness when we remember our history. We are greater if remember, and lesser if we forget it. We should remember the good and the bad of our lives. This is both on the national level and on the personal level. Our history is part of who we are. If we are ignorant or forgetful we become lesser people.
I will be honest with you today that Satan tried to plant in me, the seeds of hate and prejudice while I was in Junior High School. There was a Spanish speaking kid that beat everyone up in the locker room and took people’s money. He would spit in kid’s faces. He never did that to me, but I sure saw him doing it to others. And I started in the seventh grade to not like anyone who spoke Spanish. But in the twelfth grade as a Senior living in Worthington, Minnesota, I was assigned to do a project with the only Hispanic kid in my whole class. His name was Lionel Lomez and at first, I was hesitant, but guess what we became great friends. I am more if I remember that.
That is why community is important. I think it is important that churches have more than one generation and it’s important that families honor our grandparents and moms and dads. Because they have a history and they can remember. We can listen and learn from one generation to the next.
The generation of Adults that this story is about is the Post-depression Generation. What do we call that generation? They were called the Great Generation. In many aspects, they were great, they overcame the depression, fought two world wars and began to build a society that became one of the most amazing prosperous societies in all of the world. However, isn’t it incredible that the great generation, as great as they were also had the greatest blind spot. For many of us looking back now, it just angers us. Come on, he can’t try on a suit? But that is the way it was.
Let me take this whole thing and apply it to our lives for a moment. Light shines in the darkness as long as long as you remember your history. It is easy when you have been saved for a long time to forget who you once were. So, here is the thing, the next time you are in a place maybe at your work, maybe at a sporting event, or maybe at the family reunion, and suddenly you become aware as a believer that there is darkness all around you.
You are the light! Don’t forget that, but also don’t forget that you once walked in darkness. You would act a little different towards the one who every word is a curse word, if you remember, that you used to cuss to. Your light may shine a little different, if you come upon someone at your job, and you realize they are sinning sexually, they are involved in a lifestyle that is disobedient to God, if you first remember, you too have sinned sexually. Maybe not like they did, but you too needed God’s grace. If you want light to overcome darkness. There is only one way that can happen. If we want to be light we have to walk in the light. And we do that by being open and transparent about who we used to be.
1 John 1:6-7 “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
The only way to have true fellowship and be connected with God and other is to walk in the light. I don’t know about you but I am grateful for the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus. I can’t be light if I am still in darkness. I can’t be light if I do not practice the truth. But if I walk in the light, the blood of Jesus cleanses. The only difference between me, and the vilest sinner on the planet is the shed blood of Jesus. 1 John 1:8 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
There is another clip in the movie where Doctor Shirley, goes into a bar down in the south and winds up finding himself in a very dangerous situation, as he meets some extremely prejudice people, and so Tony goes in to rescue him. And as they leave the bar, the doctor is upset, and Tony tells him, don’t compare me to that bunch of southern hillbilly rednecks. And the doctor tells him, what if this were in your neighborhood back where you live, would it be any different? And the truth would have been, of course not, the same would have happened. It is so easy to just deceive ourselves. We cannot pretend that we have never sinned.
We cannot pretend that we are somehow better or somehow above. We all need Jesus. What do we do? 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
How Can We Be A Light In The Darkness?
- BY LEARNING THE WISDOM OF THE KINGDOM
Light shines in the darkness when we live out kingdom principles. How many of you know that there is a wisdom of this world, and there is a wisdom of the kingdom? Here is a classic often misunderstood piece of wisdom of the kingdom. Here is Jesus speaking in the sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:39 “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”
Now I think this is among the most famous verses of the bible. Don’t you think so? I mean, just about everybody has heard, turn the other cheek. But I also think that is among the least popular verses of the bible. Some would say, I think it is really cool Jesus that you said that, and even that you did that. But I have no plans to do that. But I think it is awesome that you did that on the cross, but I am not doing it. We sometimes don’t recognize the wisdom of the kingdom.
There is this amazing scene in the movie and it deals with this question. How do you overcome evil with good? Romans 12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
But how do you do it? How do you go about turning the other cheek? Is that even a possibility?
Doctor Shirley is at a venue and he is playing in front of well monied, high society people in Raleigh North Carolina. During intermission, he is about to use the restroom when he is instructed to use the wooden outhouse in the back. Doctor Shirley decides to tell the man that he will have to go back to his hotel, and it will all be delayed if he does that.
Clip 3 Restroom During Intermission 1:04:25 -1:07:30,
When I saw this clip in the movie, I thought, “Man, that guy needs a punch in the face?” Right? But that wouldn’t have overcome darkness.
Light Shines In the Darkness When We Follow God
There are three options.
Option 1- Forget You Option — not playing, strike the guy, get out of my way.
We can understand how someone would feel. He is the honored guest but he has to go out to an outhouse. And it would be understandable to hit someone under such ugly circumstances. It is almost like they are asking for this
Option 2 — It’s only a bathroom — suffer the indignity.
I can only speak for us males, but who hasn’t pulled the car over on a trip and just went. Whatever Jesus was trying to say in the turn the other cheek. I don’t think that it was an unequivocal option 2. There is another option.
Option 3 — The MOST loving — refuse the Indignity, but don’t power up.
Doctor Shirley was larger than that guy who was saying, you can’t use the bathroom. He could have just walked past him and used the bathroom. And there is a part of me and a part of you that wishes that is what he would have done. There is another part of us who likes option 1, just hit the guy. But there is an option 3 that is the way of the kingdom. It is the Jesus option. It says no, I won’t receive this indignity, but I won’t punch you in the face either. There is this great verse in Proverbs 25:21-22 “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, And the Lord will reward you.”
When you give food and water to your enemy, you are highlighting the fact that this person too is made in the image of God! And God says, He will reward you. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just pray for those who despitefully use you. I love that he chose that option.
- BY CHOOSING CONNECTION, FRIENDSHIP, COMPASSION, AND EMPATHY
This is kind of the theme of the movie. All of those things bring light.
It brings the kind of light that slices through the darkness. When Tony says to the Doctor, I don’t make the rules down here. Doc Shirley says, well who does? He is pointing out that there is this entrenched darkness around them. How do you begin to unearth that kind of darkness?
Here is one way that you do it. By choosing friendship! One of the critics of this movie said, this movie is so formulaic. The buddy road trip movie. Two guys from different worlds come together and find out that they actually like each other, it is so formulaic. It is a true story and these guys stayed friends after this story for like 50 years. And there is something more going on than just buddy stuff. They are becoming real to each other.
There is a fun scene where Tony’s wife made him promise him that he would write her every day. Doctor Shirley gives him pointers on how to write his wife and you can see the friendship budding.
Tony’s family is becoming real to Doc Shirley and Doc Shirley is real to him. And that is God’s plan to shape you. Light shines in the darkness when we develop friendships with those who are different from us. God’s plan to shape us is the other people that are around us. Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” That is the plan. And sometimes even the people who are in your life that you might not like that much are there to shape you.
Doctor Shirley has this tremendous talent, but he is isolated. He is all alone. He is estranged from what little family he has and there is a scene where Tony says to him, the world is full of lonely people afraid to make the first move. Tony on the other hand in many ways is less advantaged than Doctor Donald Shirley but he seems to be embraced in a world that is relational and supportive and warms and helps him get through it. One of the things that happens is that after the last concert date they are trying to get home and so that Tony can be with his kids and his family and what not and so they drive and drive and they are in a blizzard and Doctor Shirley is the guy who ends up driving the last leg and they end up at Tony’s house and Tony begs him to come up and meet his family and join the festivities but Doctor Shirley says, no this is your time and he goes off to his incredible apartment full of expensive things and although it is beautiful but it is actually incredibly empty. But the last scene shows how to light in the darkness.
Clip 5 Christmas 1:58: -2:02:23
- TAKE THE RISK TO WELCOME AND EMBRACE OTHERS
Doctor Shirley comes to Tony’s door and is wondering whether he will be welcomed. A beautiful scene is where the two embrace on another. It is weird because when you watch this movie you see this coming a mile away, and then when it happens, it is emotional. It moves you. There is power in embracing others.
As a person made in the image of God there are certain longings and desires that you have that are God given. You see, everyone longs for the love and the comfort of what I call Home. We have an innate desire for love. I don’t care how tough you may present yourself. I don’t care how rough of a life you have had. There is within each one of us, that desire for home, family, friends, love.
The reason why that moves us so, is because that is God saying, this is what I have had in mind all along. That is why when Jesus came, he came to restore that feeling of love and family. But the truth is that we have to choose that. You see light and truth have to be embraced. Light shines in the darkness when we are willing to embrace it.
John 1:11-12 “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,”
Jesus says, look, to as many as receive me, they get to become the children of God. You have to personally decide, do I want to receive the light or not? Do I want to receive Jesus? For many it is not that they have consciously rejected Christ, but they have never gotten around to saying, “God I need help with my own darkness. God, I need atonement for all this darkness.”
It is about connecting with Jesus. Maybe you have never trusted him to take away your darkness. If so you can do so today.