Let There Be Light 1
This musing has flowed out of my time spent memorizing John 1 or rather trying to memorize John 1. The idea of Jesus as both light and life captured my imagination and I found myself pondering those wonderful truths off and on through out my days. So, I have chosen to interrupt the musings series dealing with us and the world for a bit. We will be picking up that theme again in January.
I will have another musing focusing on us and light in December.
Let There Be Light
“Let there be light”. These are the first recorded words of God as found in Genesis 1:1-5; “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering
over the waters. And God said, "Let there be light”, and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day", and the darkness he called "night". And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.”
The creation of light by God was the seminal creative event from which all else flowed. It is light and it’s properties made and continue to make life and the living of life possible. Thus, from the very beginning of creation, light and life are united together.
Now, if we fast-forward from the time of creation to the time of the incarnation of Jesus, we discover yet again the uniting of creation, light and life. We read in the Gospel of John 1:1-5, 9-10, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
Here again we see the triune forces of creation, light and life intrinsically linked together, but this time it is not solely about the creation of the world. This time the focus is on the person of Jesus, the Incarnation of God, who was involved in the original creation and who, through His life, death and resurrection, made another new creation possible through the life and light of God.
John’s passage delineates for us the linkage between life and light as embodied in Jesus. We discover that Jesus is described as the Light, the Light that brings life, a Light shining out of the darkness, enlightening every person. But sadly this Light, which is Jesus, is not understood or widely embraced by those in the world. In fact, commenting further on Jesus being the Light, John writes in John 3:19, “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil”. Not only does humanity as a whole not understand or embrace the light and life Jesus offers but their desire is for those things that are antithetical to the light and life of God.
I want to take a minute here to state that I have been a big fan of light for as long as I can remember. When I was young it was the light that would eradicate nighttime fears. When camping, it was the first light of the emerging dawn that carried with it the promise of warmth after a night spent sleeping outside in a sleeping bag on the cold hard ground. As a newlywed it was the sunrise that marked the end of yet another graveyard shift. As a deputy sheriff it was the light of my trusty flashlight that would illuminate possible threats as I approached cars on a traffic stop or searched darkened homes or warehouses for intruders. That same flashlight helped me navigate unfamiliar terrain as I chased after a fleeing felon and helped me discern if the driver was under the influence of an illegal substance and thus posed a danger to themselves and others. Light has been my friend and continues to be my friend, so somehow it makes sense to me that God’s first recorded words are, “Let there me light”, and that Jesus is described as “the Light that brings life”.
And then when I read the words of Jesus in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world”, my heart responds; “Of course, AMEN”. For my experience in all of life, both as a Christian and before, bear testimony to the wonderful gifts that light brings to the living of life. So when Jesus, who is life, says, “I am the Light of the world”, this comes as no surprise but instead makes extraordinary sense to me. In fact this title ascribed to Jesus, the Light of the world, brings to me a real sense of comfort, hope, courage and strength that somehow everything is going to be alright, because Jesus is the Light that brings life, healing, clarity and the ability to navigate through the darkness of limited understanding and evil I encounter in life.
As I sit with the words light and life and the truth of Jesus being my light and life, it brings to me a sense that no matter what happens all will be well, all manner of things will be well (with apologies to Julian of Norwich) But this is not the end of the story. Jesus does not leave us to live life with complete comfort and without a care in the world because we have become partakers of the light and life that God has provided us through the incarnation of Jesus. Instead, there is a surprisingly shocking and incredibly challenging twist to this story. For Jesus, the Light of the world, chooses to ascribe his title to Christians, to you and me. In Matthew 5:13 Jesus states, “you (and me) are the light of the world”. Jesus does not qualify the statement nor state it as a mere possibility but rather categorically declares that we are the light of the world. This is not theory or wishful thinking but is presented as concrete reality. We are the light of the world.
Do you catch the magnitude of this statement? Jesus has chosen to give us a title that he claimed for himself. WOW, that is huge! This is not only difficult to get our head and heart around but extremely challenging if we are going to take these words of Jesus seriously and begin to live into this title. We are to be instruments of light and life to this world. Unlike John the Baptizer, who was “as a witness, to testify about the Light” and “was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light” (John 1:7-8), we are declared to be the light by Jesus, the Light.
Now because of the crystal clear clarity of Jesus’ words in our passage, “You are the light of the world”, it is difficult to get around the fact that we are the light of the world or to explain it away. Instead we are left to discover what being the light of the world means for us and to ask ourselves the question, “Are we (you and me) going to take these words seriously and seek to live our lives in light of them (no pun intended)?”
In answer to the first query, “what does it mean that we are the light of the world”, I do not think this is easily answered in specifics. In general terms I believe being light to the world involves purposefully allowing the life and light within us to flow through us, unhindered by our own “stuff” (fears, wounds, prejudices, anger and by the cultural and religious restraints of our society. I also believe it entails seeking to order our lives in harmony with the heart of God, a heart that is about compassion, mercy, love and justice. Furthermore, I believe all this begins with a commitment to walking humbly with our God.
This is no small challenge and it is also something we cannot will to happen. The words of Jesus seem to indicate that our predisposition as a Christian is to shine forth in the world. In order to do so, we are to live in harmony with the inner promptings of God and desire God’s will above all else. As Jesus, the Light of the world tells us, His food was to do the will of God and He did nothing of his own initiative. When push came to shove, Jesus’ attitude was not my will but Thy will be done. Jesus walked humbly with His God and we are invited to do the same. Here let me give a word of caution: we often hear that we are to be light and then think primarily in terms of doing but as we look at Jesus life we discover it was a life of lived out unity with God and so if we are to truly be light then like Jesus we need to be walking with God, cultivating an internal ongoing, ever deepening sense of connection and partnering with God. This is what often is referred to as ‘practicing the presence’ of God (Brother Lawrence). In order to be the light of the world flows out of a life that is continually being recharged by one’s relationship with God, trust in God and dependency on God which then molds and shapes the living of one’s life.
Now the second question is one you will have to ask and answer before God: are you going to take these words seriously and seek to live your life in light of them? The question is not ‘are you the light of the world?’ That has been answered by Jesus with a empathic YES. The question is: are you going to let your light shine out in the darkness even though the darkness may not understand, may be unimpressed and even antagonistic in their response to the light. Or as the song goes, are you going to hide it under a bushel? If you are leaning toward a “yes, I am going to let my light shine forth in the darkness”, here are some reflection questions you may want to ponder.
Reflection Questions (beneath the following questions are some verses on being light)
What does it mean to be the light of the world?
What feelings are stirred within you to know that Jesus has declared you to be the light of the world? Why?
When you hear the invitation to live a life that is a “not my will but Thy will be done” kind of life: What scares you? What excites you? What resistance or fears, if any, do you have to living this kind of life rise within you? Why?
What would it mean for you to walk humbly with your God…at work? At home? In your marriage and relationships? In your neighborhood? In your world?
What would you need to know from God to enter into that way of living? Why?
Looking at the properties of light (corrects, heals, surgical cutting, removes fears, navigates in the midst of darkness, shows what is hidden in darkness, makes growth possible, gives the ability to live life, etc.), answer the following questions:
• Which qualities of light do you most easily manifest to others? Why?
• Which are difficult for you to manifest? Why?
If you took your identity as light more seriously and intentionally, how would your life be different?
What hinders the brightness of your light?
How can you partner with God in such a way so that you can be a brightly shining light of God’s presence? Ask God for wisdom and direction concerning this and, if you have a spiritual director, counselor, or trusted Godly friend, process this with them.
What recharges your battery?
When was the last time you recharged your spiritual batteries? What was your experience of God during that time? What were the results in your life in the days and weeks that followed?
Light of the world
Matthew 5:14 "You are the light of the world.”
John 1:9-10 ”There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.”
John 3:19 "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.”
John 8:12 “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."
John 9:5 "While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world."
John 12:46 "I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.”
2 Corinthians 4:4 “…in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
Next month we will explore our crazy on again and off again love affair with the light and life of Jesus.
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