Of Darkness and Light

The theme of darkness and light travels throughout the Scriptures: from Genesis 1 where God spoke light into the chaos and darkness (vss. 1-3); through the plagues of Egypt, in which the ninth plague was a palpable darkness that descended on the land (Ex. 10:21-23); to the Exodus, where God led them through the darkness to the Promised Land with a pillar of fire; to the cross, where the land was unusually darkened in the middle of the day for three hours, when Jesus died; and to new creation, where we will no longer need a sun for light because God will be our light.   It is truly an important theme to understand and  pay attention to in our Bible.

Often, we are reminded that we live in a spiritually  dark world.  I am reminded of an experience that I had a number of times during summer breaks in college , when I  worked as a door-to-door salesman.  The hours were long and the job was both stressful and exhilarating.  Being on straight commission, the level of stress or exhilaration was determined by the day’s sales.  Occasionally, I would dream  that I was demonstrating my wares in a brightly lit living room only to suddenly awaken sitting upright in a darkened bedroom.  It was always shocking and disturbing.

Today, when I read the news or hear about a movie promoting teenage suicide or engage in a discussion with an atheist or even contemplate my own temptations, I am often reminded what a dark world it is in which we live.  Unfortunately, I am not always as shocked as I was waking from my summer dreams years ago.

Jesus painted for us the contrast of our world in describing himself in this way: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).  Twice, Paul described unbelievers as being “darkened in their understanding,” using additional terms like “futile in their thinking” (Rom. 1:21) and “alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (Eph. 4:18).

Yet, Jesus not only said that he was the light of the world but, in the Sermon on the Mount, told his followers, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matt. 5:14).  We are now called to bring light to this darkened and ever more darkening world.  We are to call them into God’s new creation. May we heed Jesus’ call: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Amen.