In the absence of light, their is darkness. In the absence of trust their is fear. We don’t trust the darkness, so we fear it. We don’t trust the darkness because we do not know what it conceals from us. If you have ever stubbed your toe while trying to navigate your way through a dark room, you know what I mean. In a dark room the first thing we search for is a way to turn on the lights.
I believe that is why Jesus’ declaration, “I am the light of the world,” is one of the most beloved ways of defining Jesus. Light dispels the darkness. Light removes the fear darkness invoked. With the lights on, I am much less likely to stub my toe. I can see where I am going. With the lights on I can avoid all the obstacles that might be in my way. All fear of walking through that room is gone.
But read Jesus’ declaration again. He didn’t say he was Greg’s light or your light, he said he was the world’s light. He came to remove the fear of darkness that plagues the world.
Let’s return to “the stubbing your toe in the darkness” analogy. If you stub your toe in the darkness it causes you great suffering. So, let’s say when you stub your toe it causes you to trip and fall onto an end table knocking a lamp to the floor. Now you have a broken toe, bruised ribs, and need to replace a lamp. And, you are still in the darkness! This is a silly example, I know, but it does make the point. Darkness can be the cause of much suffering.
I would propose that the darkness Jesus came into the world to overcome is the source of all the existential suffering in the world, the suffering related to human existence, the kind of suffering humans cause and can eliminate. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, climate change, Putin’s war on Ukraine, so-called reality TV, and so on. When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world,” it is this darkness, and its accompanying suffering, that Jesus came to dispel.
To be clear, people will still suffer. Hearts will break. People we love will die. Tornadoes, earthquakes, forest fires that begin with a lightning strike, floods, and hurricanes will destroy property and lives. Ticks will spread Lyme disease. One could argue that humankind is also responsible for most if not all of these other forms of personal suffering. I don’t disagree. But the dinosaurs didn’t disappear because of human stupidity. Volcanoes have always erupted without human interference. Other natural disasters have and do occur with and without humans around.
The terms I would use to describe the difference between the two are particular and universal. The suffering we do as part of our daily lives, loss, heartbreak, a broken arm, lossing the game by a last second three-pointer etc., is particular to each of us. Yes, all people experience these kinds of suffering, but they come and go in particular ways.
Universal suffering is the big-ticket kind of suffering that impacts races, genders, classes, nations, and the entire planet.
Jesus was concerned about both. I claim Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Period. But with my salvation comes the responsbility to address the universal suffering that inflicts as all, and that can be eliminated by a collective effort of the followers of Jesus.
Jesus is my light and the light of the world. For far too long, we have been content to let Jesus by our personal lights. And the world is going to hell in a handbasket because we neglected the weightier call of God upon our saved lives, to eliminate darkness, the source of universal suffering.
My apologies for the length of this post, but I need to make two more points to tie this into yesterday’s post. Please hang with me.
There is no such thing as a flashdark. Darkness only exists in the absence of light. God didn’t create humankind as flashdarks, we don’t emit darkness. We walk in darkness because we don’t turn on or walk by the light. Instead, God created us flashlights, as the source of light, the kind of light that dispels the darkness. We have the light already within us. Sadly, most choose to hide or ignore the light. Jesus came to remove the curtains that hide the light within. Traditionally, those curtains would be called “sins.” The choice to live in the darkness, out of and away from the light, out of our away from the Love of God.
One of my favorite times of the year is Christmas eve. Everyone is gathered in a circle in a dark sanctuary. Each holding an unlit candle. On the altar or communion table burns the Christ candle, the only light in the room. One person lights their candle from the Christ candle. Then they light the next person’s candle and so on around the room until every person’s candle is lit. The room is now full of light, the light of Christ, held be each person present. That’s how I see Jesus as the light of the world. He came to bring to life God’s light, the light that has always been within us. That’s the Love of God within. It’s always been there.
Be a blessing to someone today!