What is the difference between a fire and a flame?

When I think about a fire I immediately think of something destructive. In my mind I see a charred and broken landscape, a force of nature that we can just barely hope to contain.

But a flame? Well, we see a flame as something positive, maybe even hopeful. We carry a torch for someone we love, we light candles in ceremony and in serenity. We use the metaphor of an eternal flame to signify the miracle of never ending love.

I have candles all over my house – the light of small flickering flames is my happiest place and I have put my home together such that I never have to work hard to fill a room with candle light. However – I am careful not to ignore the warnings that come affixed to most of the candles that I buy that instruct me how to burn that particular item with the least chance of setting fire to my house or something in it. One warning that is always present is to never burn the candle unattended; it can throw a spark and spread through your room like a wildfire. There is a lot of power in that one tiny flame.

That is why we use it so often to signify the love of Christ – why at Christmas we pass candle light between us in a darkened sanctuary and the glow lights up the room. This what we want to see the Love of our Lord do in this world; this is how we want to make disciples and share the good news of Salvation. And in the best situations, you would be able to ignite a flame that spreads the light far beyond your ability to attend its burning.

But I think that it bears warning that a lot of our passions can spark a flame that is easy to pass on. And if we aren’t careful, we could start or enable a destructive fire that could lay waste to our communities and our relationships.

So when it comes to flames, be discerning about what ignites you. Be intentional about what you want to spread.

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