Light for the Dark PlacesBy Dr Rubel Shelly People talk about being in "dark places" of discouragement, hopelessness, or impasse in their lives. It is not uncommon to read or hear the language of "dark places" for our children, our culture, or our world. In both ancient and modern literature, the metaphor of darkness for human error and its penalties is common.
Maybe that is why the person and nature of God are described as light. "God is light and in him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5) One biblical writer even calls him "the Father of lights" and declares not only that there is no darkness in God or his actions but not even a "shadow" (James 1:17).
It should come as no surprise to anyone that the biblical narrative describes God's entry into flesh this way: Light has come to shine into all the world's dark places. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it" (John 1:5). "I am the light of the world," Jesus said. "Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).
In view of all this, who could possibly misunderstand the challenge Jesus gave his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount? Be lights in your world. Be like candles on a stand. Be shining cities on high hills. Be blessings to everyone.
But some of us have missed his point and have done incredible harm in his name. The call to be lights in the world isn't a militaristic call. It isn't a challenge to form a political party or movement for lobbying political parties. People who have gone that route have given unbelievers cause to indict all Christians as unkind, judgmental, and merciless. They see a strident and angry activism that makes them reject Jesus on account of the ugly behaviors of people who profess to represent him.
Light tends to be gentle, appealing, and positive in its presence. It clarifies the landscape and makes life possible. Even if it makes one flinch and shield her eyes at first, God's light typically doesn't come with the blast of a nuclear bomb.
Think about it. Do you think the world needs more caustic critics or helping hands? More dark judgments and predictions or persons who model the light and blessing of God's presence? His encouragement? His grace?
The story is that there was a shortage of hard currency in the British Empire during Oliver Cromwell's reign. Government agents searched for a supply of silver to meet the need. "We have searched in vain for silver that can be minted into coin," began the report.
"To our dismay, we have found none - except in our country's cathedrals where the statues of the saints are made of choice silver." "Then let's melt down the saints," Cromwell said, "and put them into circulation." In a world that needs light in its dark places, that's still a good idea.
Rubel Shelly has preached for the Woodmont Hills Church of Christ in Nashville since 1978. During that time, he has also taught at David Lipscomb University and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He is the author of more than 20 books, including several which have been translated into languages such as Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, Italian, French, and Russian. He is married to the former Myra Shappley, and they are the parents of three children: Mrs. David (Michelle) Arms, Tim, and Tom. To contact Rubel or to subscribe to his newsletter, Fax of Life, send email to faxOfLife@woodmont.org