Many of you who have shared in my journey know that I am a momma’s boy through and through. I am not afraid to admit it. I remember when I was younger I was attached to my mother at the hip. When she moved, I moved. I was always around her. In fact, when folks would see her without me they would ask her, “Where is your little shadow?” For them, my mother and I were inseparable. In fact, I was a complete reflection of my mother in their eyes. She was forever linked to her little shadow. When I was with my mother and some strange person tried to speak to me and I felt threatened, I would wrap my little arm around my mother’s leg: 1) to be secure by getting as to close my mother as possible (since she was my protector) and 2) to remind that person of the close relationship me and my mother shared (just in case they tried to interrupt that relationship).
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1)
The word shadow has a few definitions. It can mean “a reflected image.” It can also mean “an inseparable companion or follower.” So inserting that definition in the verse it reads: “He dwells in the secret place…shall abide under the (reflected image) of the Almighty.” Just like folks called me my mother’s shadow, we are called abide under the “reflected image” of the Almighty. Others should see us as “inseparable companions” of God (i.e. they should forever link us to Christ).
Shadows are cast by an image standing in light. Christ Himself proclaimed that he was the “light of the world” (John 8:12) and asked us to “let our lights shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify (God) in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Interesting that He didn’t say “give the people a five point sermon or a tract, so that they may glorify your Father in heaven.” He was concerned about our good works and our lifestyle. So the question becomes, “What does your shadow look like?” More importantly, “Whose shadow are you in?” If you abide under the light of Christ, you can only reflect Christ.
Here are a few amazing characteristics of shadows that reveal wonderful principles for Christian witness:
1. Shadows Don’t Reveal Details
If you ever stood on a sidewalk and looked at your shadow you probably would notice a silhouette of your figure. The amazing thing about our shadows is that they don’t reveal details. They don’t reveal physical flaws on our bodies. If I have bruises from my past on my arms and legs, my shadow does not reflect that.
The same principle is seen in our spiritual lives. There are bruises that are unrevealed when looking at our shadows. To be honest, I have had lots of bruises in my life, emotionally and spiritually. But it is the blood and light of Christ that took away all of the infirmities and the past negative details of my life. In this, I am reminded that I ministering from the mercies of God. It is truly by His mercy that I am who I am today. As Paul recalled, it is “by the grace of God I am what I am…” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
This is a wonderful reminder that we remain humble and Christ-like in ministering to others. Once we step outside of the light of Christ, all of our infirmities are exposed. As long as we remain in a “shadowed” state, reflecting the light of Christ, we are covered and can minister effectively. As my sister in Christ once told me, “We gotta make sure we always hide behind the cross.” People don’t want to see you, they want to see Jesus in you.
2. Shadows Don’t Follow People Who Don’t Move
In order for shadows to be effective (in creating shade for others), they must follow those who move. How many people are you touching? How many people are overshadowed by your influence in their lives? There are many who need the touch of our shadows. These people have been “burnt” by the “perceived sunlight” of past relationships. They just need some shade. You need to touch people and bring them healing, but if you don’t move then those people will not be touched. Real ministry involves action on your part. Idle Christians cannot effectively reach others.
3. Shadows Don’t Talk
Shadows don’t talk, they move. They are silent teachers. Peter’s shadow in Acts 5 wasn’t a manifestation of what he said but what he did. Many people are double tongued and have a tendency not to “practice what they preach.” A quote often attributed to 13th century monk, Francis of Assisi, stated, “Preach the Gospel and use words only when necessary.” In other words, let your lifestyle reflect the message of Christ’s Gospel. Your shadow will speak through its action. I live by the adage that the greatest sermon you will ever preach is through your lifestyle. What does your lifestyle reveal to others? Do you do more talking than moving? How can you change your approach to (or understanding of) evangelism to include the lifestyle based New Testament message?
The Shadow Gospel
In Acts 5, the sick were brought out into the streets on beds and couches. The rendering of the word sick in the original text is also translated “weak” or discouraged”. In life, many of us can become discouraged. Discouragement is nothing more than exhaustion of the soul. These folks needed other people to carry them. They were laid in the streets. They had lost their strength.
Note that these people weren’t taken to synagogues or churches. They were laid in the streets. Many times, we believe that inviting somebody to our church will effectively demonstrate the Gospel message to them. If they hear a good four-point sermon and some good singing, surely they will be saved. There are many people in today’s society who are lying in the streets, both literally and figuratively (many old folks would say that they are “runnin’ the streets”). Unfortunately, the shadows of Christians are not reaching them because we want them to “come in to us” and our churches, rather than us going out to them.
We gotta start changing our spiritual routes. We get so comfortable going our same route every week. I am guilty of this myself. Church on Sunday and Wednesday, work, home. That’s it. Anything else would interrupt our flow. How many of us are going into unfamiliar territory casting our shadows? What streets do we refuse to navigate? Do those streets have hurting people on them? The old people used to call them the “highways and bi-ways.” We are called to go into the “highways and bi-ways” and not to have church as usual. And I aint talkin’ about street preaching. True evangelism can’t be found in a tract or a bullhorn shouting ministry. It is found in relating to people where they are and being able to cast your shadow and reflection of Christ’s light on people’s circumstances.
These folks weren’t looking for a word from Peter. They weren’t waiting for Him to preach to them. Rather, they just wanted his shadow to pass them by, so they would be healed from their weaknesses.Sad to say, but folks in today’s culture are not impacted by gospel tracts condemning them to hell. They are looking for some real folks whose shadows may fall on them, so that they may receive healing (whether spiritual or emotional).
Questions: How many people has your shadow touched outside of the church? Do your colleagues even know that you are a Christian by the lifestyle you lead? Is your lifestyle a true reflection of Christ and His life?