Posts Tagged ‘darkness’

Gospel of John: The True Light

January 5, 2015

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:9-13 NIV)

Light does certain things for us we take for granted. In a spiritual sense we use the words “revelation” or “reveal” to indicate something hidden or unnoticed being brought to our attention. Of course physical light doesn’t necessarily reveal anything hidden behind or in something else as much as it simply dispels the darkness enough to see. What light doesn’t do physically is rid our world of shadows, for it is through the use of shadows that we see dimensionally.

So here’s a conundrum we face as Christians who believe Jesus gets rid of all darkness: darkness is not evil in and of itself. Those who do evil use it to hide their intentions, actions, or the extent of the consequences, yet that only makes it an amoral tool. Therefore shadows cannot be said to be evil either since they reveal the shape of everything around us. Shading is a technique of the artist; God being the originator of art used it to great effect then created eyes that would recognize what it meant.

If shading is not evil, then what does the true light do?

To understand the answer to that question we have to quote Jesus for the clue to light’s mission: “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:20 NIV) Right. Now we know the reason those who practice evil choose the darkest shadows–to hide their evil. In contrast, “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” (John 3:21 NIV)

Those live by lies prefer shadows because it’s harder to see contrast where light is faint. Of course a good liar prefers a little light in order to sell the lie with just enough truth to fool the buyer.

John the Writer answers his own dilemma later on, which means we are getting ahead of the story here a bit. But establishing why those in darkness hate the light right from the beginning allows us to follow John’s reasoning better, I think. Jesus, The Word, is the true light which came into the world, and though the world was made by Him, it did not recognize Him as anything more than a man. Nor does the world at large acknowledge Jesus as anything more than a good man/prophet in the present either.

What’s even more heartbreaking is the fact that Jesus came to His own, but His own did not receive Him. Now that is a failed mission if ever there was one.

I dare say none of us likes being told we are someone or something other than who or what we truly are or desire to be. Jesus, by John’s testimony here, is God, Creator, The True Light, and Savior of all mankind, yet the very people He chose as keepers of this truth, refused to receive Him as such. In fact they rejected Him outright.

No discussion of light and darkness would be complete, however, without a glance at one of the more revealing statements Jesus made.

““The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22, 23 NIV)

What we’re able to see–be it an issue of healthy eyes or darkness so deep nothing can be seen–determines what we consider light. Someone raised in the gloom of the deep forest and never seeing the direct sunlight would consider even minor increases in light to be great revelations. Another person living in open where they experience the sun’s rays in full force would look on the other’s little rays as weak. Perspective dictates what we consider to be great light.

That last statement what we consider to be light actually being darkness is scary sad. At the same time how would some of us know? I mean, when a person is kept in a prison of ignorance, shame, oppression, or whatever how can they know anything different? Yet it also goes right to the heart of the issue of availability in the sense that if true light is available but is refused in favor of darkness, then what can be said about someone’s perception?

Psychologically, lots.

For instance, a person conditioned to darkness receiving light for the first time would react instinctively to shield themselves from it. All we have to do is just walk into a well lighted area in the morning from a dark bedroom with sleep in our eyes to experience that issue. Light hurts us the first time we experience it with our eyes wide open–and anyone walking around in the dark knows we don’t have to squint to see so our eyes must be open wide.

Yet Jesus’ assertion “if what you consider to be light is actually darkness, how great is your darkness then?” confronts our notion of truth. As I have grown in understanding of what is versus what I wished to be–or was taught should be, it becomes clear that expectation, while being good on the one hand, clearly spoils the pot for reality on the other. A person who is taught that they can do anything will find out one day what “anything” means. Everything about our existence demands limits. A bird cannot be dog, a dog a cat, a man a monkey, and so on. The limits of intelligence in one species might be the very form given to another. Perception notwithstanding reality demonstrates a need for caution where truth and wishful thinking meet.

Jesus extends the “right” to become children of God. The Jews are natural descendants of the patriarchs chosen by God to be His people–children. We, through our Savior, become so by incarnated nature of the blood of Christ. The blood carries the identity, the stamp of the being. We take on His nature through the blood making us Children of God. In a similar way as Christ we experience resurrection or “rebirth” as it were through and incarnation.

John’s discussion of this subject pretty much dominates the rest of his book.

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The Sweet and the Savory

January 1, 2014

 

Light is sweet, and it is pleasing for the eyes to see the sun. Indeed, if a man lives many years, let him rejoice in them all, and let him remember the days of darkness, since they will be many. All that comes is futile. (Ecclesiastes 11:7, 8 HCSB)

Humans avoid darkness. Just look at the street lights in a city, how late we stay up at night, where we like to vacation and the places we call “paradise” for starters. The last phrases and the sentence speak to a place inside our collective psyche about an avoidance issue we all share. Something I know after years of trying it every other way possible is that no matter how good we have it–decent job, nice house (not expensive just average), friendly family, and toys–we still have days of darkness.

Many days of darkness.

Lately I’ve begun to notice how often people post on Facebook about their dark times or poignant quotes related to them. The memes (pictures with thoughts written on them) run rampant everyday pointing to our thought life as the source of happiness and light-hearted living. Why? Because everyone is experiencing their share of futility and despair. I’m not focusing on the negative here just pointing out a truth as I see it–or fact as it is.

One of the few things I have gleaned out of being alive for 53 years is the ability to be almost fearless when looking at the facts. Don’t get me wrong, I still hesitate and waffle when confronted but eventually I prefer to just get my hands in the mess and deal. The journey from a bruise, cut or debilitating injury to healing takes time. The one fact which has stood out for me is that it takes time to heal from anything.

We accept the truth of physical healing as a matter of course while injuries done to the mind receive less sympathy–or empathy–unless we experience something similar. How many times have you heard someone say, “Oh just grow up and deal with it!” or “Grab yourself by the bootstraps and pull ’em up!” or “Time to put on your big girl panties and…” I dare say too often, no matter what the situation someone always has that “easy” answer in the shape of a formula that works no matter what the situation. The problem I find with other people’s answers is they believe (often wholeheartedly) their method is a one size fix all rather than something that simply worked for them at the time.

This brings me to the lesson I learned of principle working theory over method.

I am approximately the same size as I was in my 20s. As an example my waist remains roughly 33″ but definitely not 34″ unfortunately. Why is it unfortunate? Because I’m slightly more than 33″ but 34″ is too loose and I struggle to keep them up even with a belt. If I buy clothes, the shirts still fit but I must try on the pants ‘cuz even though it says 33″ it might be too tight and then it’s misery.

Solutions come with similar problems attached. Even though the gist of a situation might look exactly like something we’ve dealt with before one twist can make the flavor or outcome entirely different. God created the parameters of time and chance which runs off of a set of variables so vast no one really knows how to calculate them. Yet we insist on solutions in the one-size-fits-all category, attempting to force everyone through legislation, habits, a host of guidelines and social mores into a specific bag (or number of them) so we can deal efficiently. Religions do it, governments do it, cultures dictate it, society thrives on it and families die from it. The more I think about it the more I’m convinced one-size-fits-all is a form of laziness. I don’t care how industrious or ambitious someone claims to be categorization allows us the convenience of not thinking through all the variables in a situation and blaming the person for not being subject to conventional solutions.

On the other hand, just because we misapply the principle of categorization doesn’t mean that having categories is wrong. The evil isn’t in the category but the relentless assigning of it and hard-hearted refusal to allow people to be more than one. For instance, measles as a disease is in a category of diseases which act a certain way, affect a specific part of the body and results in a defined outcome with few variables. Native Americans died from it because their immune system had never confronted it before, yet even though in the European cultures people died from it exposure to it guaranteed a better survival rate. So to categorize measles as a disease which is incurable or deadly across the board would be inaccurate. To categorize it as one with dangerous possibilities is truth.

Jesus said once, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold… (Matthew 24:12 NIV)” Methodology is the darling of some of the worst atrocities in history. The Nazis were masters of the societal norms and governed “truths” which annihilated millions before they were stopped. The history of the world is rife with examples of one method winning against another and then proclaimed as penultimate way for the future. Until of course another way is brought by those who conquer the previous conquerors. And round and round it goes. Every nation which went undefeated in battle and conquered other nations used its victories to proselytize and champion its gods/God. The method the winner used became the standard until someone else thought of something to counter it, then the newcomer championed his gods. The callous hearts resulting from hardline methodology can be seen from religions to governments to business to personal interaction and family dynamics.

Pleasure seekers are never more intense about it than when the days of darkness abound. We call addiction a disease to ease the shame of it but most of the people I know who became addicted had other goals in mind when they began the downward spiral. The reasons are complicated so conclusions as to why and what caused the spiral are as many as there are addicts. However, we can get a general gist as to the trek into this madness of sorts by watching the trends.

Many of us just want to feel good–physically or personally, it doesn’t matter. We seek pleasure as a means of boosting our own view of life or ourselves or use it as a means of gaging success. I doubt that most people who end up addicted ever set a goal for it or had even thought about it much. Having worked and lived with many people who deal with addiction I can confidently say each one experienced something uniquely similar to everyone else.

The days of darkness come to all. Escape is not an option mentally though it might be physically. Just ask someone suffering from PTSD because of war trauma and you will know the truth of that. The only solution is healing; the only way to heal is to know what caused the trauma in the first place, and the only way to know that is to be aware, honest and willing to do the work it takes to go to the dark places of one’s soul.

Yet all is not lost for most of us since there will be plenty of days where light shines brightly. Solomon’s injunction to remember the light in our days of darkness comes as a warning against despair. We have life, therefore we must live it with everything in us. We have light in some form so must cling to the memory of it to sustain us through the dark times. At the same time we need to remember the dark days in the times of light so that we don’t get blind-sided when something crashes to the ground. Life is very unpredictable with so many people putting their two cents in the pot so our response must be caution in success and hope in defeat.

Asking the Wrong Question

December 29, 2009

A second time they summoned the man who had been blind.  “Give glory to God,”  they said.  “We know this man is a sinner.”

He replied,  “Whether He is a sinner or not, I don’t know.  One thing I do know, I was blind but now I see!”

Then they asked him,  “What did He do to you?  How did He open your eyes?”

He answered,  “I have told you already and you did not listen.  Why do you want to hear it again?  Do you want to become His disciples too?”  John 9:26, 27.

The Jews’ assertion that Jesus was a sinner was an assumption not something they could prove.  In fact, if you look just a few verses before this in John 8:46, you’ll read Jesus challenging them on this very subject.  They couldn’t but they stubbornly refused to acknowledge that may be, just may be, they were wrong.

The former blind man blew their argument out of the water by just simply stating the facts:  I was blind but now I see!  A truth this obvious is not something you can argue effectively against without firm proof to the contrary.  Yet they persisted in their quest to discredit Jesus—or may be it was something more rudimentary like fixating on the discussion rather than the reality.  Intellectuals play this game of hypothesis all the time which keeps the  practical application at bay.

Since the Jews couldn’t dissuade him about Jesus’ ability, they used another tact by rephrasing the questions.  The former blind man must have realized their disinterest and challenged them on it.  He accused them of not listening, although I’m sure they remembered every word he said, but it was their inability to take what he said to heart is the real point he was making here.  They heard and understood his words but refused to let them change anything about their grasp of truth.

I can’t decide whether his question about their desire to be Christ’s disciples too was said in sarcasm or sincerity.  The contentious nature of the discussion so far would lead me to think the former—the man wasn’t stupid by any means.  A person who lives their life blind learns to hear exceptionally well to the point they recognize nuances many of us miss.  The life of beggers depended on the ability to quickly recognize the mood of those coming past for not only their livelihood but sometimes their lives.  Growing up in the Jewish community, even though he was considered an outcast because of his condition, he understood how things worked, since no one paid any attention to him as a person (to most he would be nearly invisible or non-existent) he would have heard many a conversation informing him of how things were.  His understanding would have extended to knowing the priests, Levites and various sects pretty well; which ones gave the most or least.  So I don’t think he was fooled by the sophisticated methods of the Jews questioning him.  He knew they weren’t willing to believe by the tone of their interrogation.

Neither do I think any amount of pressure could have persuaded this man to give up Jesus.  His heart was fixed on His healer, Savior and Master—He wouldn’t have known Jesus was God just yet.  His arguments were simply put yet completely effective to the point that those trying to dissuade him couldn’t counter them and so resorted to insults and social pressure.  Yet the Pharisees, having never been disabled, could not have understood the power a miracle of this magnitude would have over someone in his condition.

The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.  Ecclesiastes 9:17.

This, then, is the lesson we can draw from the story at this point:  we don’t have to be theologians or highly educated to be effective in our testimony; all we need to say is  “I once was blind but now I see!”

From the Mouth of Simplicity

December 28, 2009

Finally they turned again to the blind man,  “What have you to say about Him?  It was your eyes He opened.”

The man replied,  “He is a prophet.”  John 9:17.

Those of us used to sophisticated argument or exegesis can probably relate to the Pharisees reaction to the blind man’s confident assertion about Jesus’ identity.  John doesn’t record an exclamation point here from the translation I have so we can assume the man’s statement was said matter of fact.

Yet with all of this evidence staring them in the face, the Jews desperately chose what was behind door #2. 

The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents.  “Is this your son?”  they asked.  “Is this the one you say was born blind?  How is it that now he can see?”

The trap set for the parents here is diabolical in its intent and method for they had already declared anyone who confessed Jesus as the Christ (or something even close from the sound of it) would be thrown out of the synagogue.  Yet the parents said enough to corner the Pharisees into acknowledging the miracle by stating two very vital pieces of evidence:  1)  this is our son  2)  he was born blind.  The fact that they denied knowing how he could now see was only a half truth—or half lie—because they hadn’t seen how it happened they only heard about it.  So their denial was technically true.

This story informs me the leaders of the Jews didn’t care about truth as much as they did their traditions and identity as a nation.  They were so obsessed over their own story they went out of their way to keep from even acknowledge the truth God put in front of their faces.  Yet before we begin condemning them we must look at out own behavior.  Many of us come from staunch religious backgrounds and teachings which we never even consider challenging.  We hold to traditional viewpoints even when there’s massive evidence to the contrary.  When power becomes the main focus, it defeats truth since power is only a part of the bigger picture.  When traditional viewpoints don’t match up with clear truth staring us in the face, we must adjust our thinking to what we know to be fact—or as near as we can identify fact.

Still we need to take warning from the testimony of history.  What facts signify can be distorted through sophistry and smoke screens.  Those in power will always use facts to manipulate the truth found in them to their own benefit.  This is why we must study to show ourselves approved by God, a people who rightly divide the Word of truth and keep our candle burning in every dark place we encounter.

These leaders knew they had the parents by the short-hairs and pressed their advantage.  To be kicked out of the synagogue meant losing one’s identity as a Jew, being shunned by those still accepted and cut off from family or friends; a person put out of the synagogue was as good as dead to his or her previous world, and their relatives, friends and countrymen considered them as such.  This was a death sentence in those days because a person’s identity and self-worth came as much from their national heritage and religious community as it did from their personal accomplishments.  To be outside the corporate family meant being adrift and alone financially, collectively and spiritually, vulnerable to all the jackals of society’s underbelly.

Due to the gross abuses of the powerful, individuality has been trumpeted over the last 50 years or so as the answer.  The ability to be autonomous and singular seemed to be a healthy counterpoint to the tribal/national identity dominating the last several thousand years.  Humanity in the form of youthful energy claimed the adult population had led us astray in order to keep power and the poor under their thumbs.  They rebelled against the argument “because I said so!” and stood against the tyranny of popular pressure.

Since then we haven’t seen the utopia they touted as a natural consequence of their proposed “freedom” and individuality.  Like the noted philosopher Sting sang “There is no miracle of science that hasn’t gone from a blessing to a curse.”  Nothing we humans do outside of our design will be anything but destructive to our world and by consequence to us.  We cannot work outside the design of nature’s structure then expect to escape unscathed.  Our little experiment in social restructuring has ended up with a more fractured society than ever.  Order was never very good before but now it’s nearly on the verge of being none existent.

I am not condemning the Jews by calling the leaders of Jesus’ timeframe on the carpet for their foolishness, rather I’m attempting to illustrate that anyone who steps outside of God as their King, Master, God and Savior will be left with a husk of traditions that mean nothing to their eternal connection with Him.  These people desired a Messiah after their own likeness and goals.  After years of theory and discussion, they set up an understanding of Scripture which fit their own personality ticks.  This isn’t to say they agreed on what on the details, far from it, in point of fact they fought each other constantly.  Yet in the person of Christ they found a common enemy and joined forces.

 The Jews next move proved what their hearts were about more than almost anything else.