Monday, March 07, 2005

Dark vs. Light

Yesterday's lectionary reading focused on Jesus healing the blind man. At the end of the story, Jesus says," For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind." The healing of the blind man becomes a way for him to speak of sight and blindness in a whole different way. Speaking to those who view themselves as God's elect, Jesus action and statement reinforces a constant theme: "Your hope and your confidence must be in God alone. Election, following Torah, the temple, all your religious observances, all the promises--these are all rooted in God's goodness. So don't misplace your trust." His stories and actions and words continually remind the listener that they must look beyond all these externals to the Father and trust in the Father for their redemption. By failing to do so, they reveal themselves as blind, as cursed by God.

Thus some people are blind and in darkness, whereas others can see and are in the light. There's a contrast apparent all through the gospel, in fact all the Scripture. People in darkness and people in light. In John 3, Jesus calls this judgment, "the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil."

If you follow this line of thought throughout the bible, you'll find many contrasts between people who are in the darkness and people who are in the light. Just reflecting on the metaphor itself, we see the obvious: people in the darkness cannot see, people in the light can see. As the Proverbs say:
18But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
19The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know over what they stumble.

It might be beneficial in our spiritual study, to take time and list out contrasts throughout the text of those in darkness vs. those in light. One stumbles, the other walks along a brighter and bright path. Romans contrasts Adam as the father of those in darkness vs. Jesus as the Father of those in the light. Like the fateful act in the garden, those in the darkness take what is not given; those in the light receive all things as gifts from God. Darkness is characterized by striving; light is resting. Those in the dark look inward for their identity; those in the light look upward for their identity. Paul's discussion of the works of the flesh vs. the fruit of the Spirit might be seen as a continuation of this dark vs. light theme.
19Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21envy,[d] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Gal 5:19-23)

The other New Testament reading from Sunday was from Paul's letter to the Ephesians. At one point he says, "For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light..." (Ephesians 5:8). Paul presents this contrast in a way that helps us to create a framework for personal reflection. He says you were in darkness but now you are in the light. We have moved from darkness to light. This didn't happen by chance, but is a gift from God. As Paul writes in Colossians, "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Col 1:13-14).

Just as Jesus heals the blind man, God is the one delivers us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. So Paul suggests that our position is in the light. Our trust in Jesus is a sign that God has opened our blind eyes. He has freed us from darkness and brought us into the light of His son. After Paul writes that "now you are light in the Lord," he says "Walk as children of light." Thus Paul says in effect, "you're in the light, so walk in the light." He first indicates our position: light. Then he follows with a command: walk in the light.

In other words, be who you are. We are not striving to become children of the Light. We are not striving to produce spiritual fruit. By the grace of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit in accordance with the will of the Father, we are children of the light, children of the Spirit. Thus the fruit of the Spirit is our natural expression. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control are all naturally part of who we are in Christ. Thus Paul is exhorting us to live as what we are.

When we notice the absence of such fruits or the presence of the "works of the flesh," we look to the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ and ask for his mercy and grace. He is working in us to will and to do for His good pleasure. He shows us who we are in the light, then we long to walk and live in the light, and he works it out in us.

Our life becomes a journey of trust. We trust that the same God who opened our blind eyes, and has delivered us from the kingdom of darkness, will ultimately present us as blameless. So we move toward who we are. I have been made perfect in love, so in trusting obedience I move toward love. I have been given fullness of joy, so in trusting obedience I move toward joy. I am the righteousness of God in Christ, so in trusting obedience I move toward righteousness. All movement is a movement of trusting obedience that God has completed this work in me and will eventually fully reveal it through me.

These texts are perfect reminders of our Lenten journey to become who we are. Blessings!

1 comment:

John said...

These are excellent posts Doug! I thank the Lord that my eyes were opened, how sweet it is in the Kingdom of Heaven!