The Light of the World
“Look out!” That’s what I heard just before my foot slipped on the loose edge of the embankment. Luckily my friend was right there beside me and grabbed my arm, keeping me from falling what my twelve-year-old mind told me was five hundred feet to my death. It was only about ten feet and the landing would’ve been smooth and soft on the eroding pile of dirt. But that’s not what my adolescent brain was telling me. We were at church camp and taking a late evening walk through the trails on Crowley’s Ridge. We were being led by our camp directory and all had our required flashlight. But as you might suspect, I was confident that I knew the trail and didn’t need the flashlight. After all, the other had lights and I could see just fine with the glow of their which was just ahead of me. The only trouble was I had failed to account for the dimming effect of the light in the darkness. The farther away from the source of light I was, the more difficult it was to see, a lesson I would learn through the pounding beat of my heart and my near-death experience.
Light is a wonderful thing. It allows us to see what is right in front of us. It illumines the potential dangers and pitfalls around us. Light is a wonderful thing. So why is it that often we convince ourselves that we have no real need for the flashlight to shine on the dark path? What is it about us that causes us to respond the way I did when I was twelve?
John is clear in the opening of his gospel. Jesus is the word of God (John 1:1). Jesus is the light that was coming into the world, the true light which gives light to everyone (John 1:9). John says of Jesus, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5). And if that’s not enough, Jesus says of himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Scripture is clear concerning Jesus being the light. This understanding gives new meaning for Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” If the word is Jesus, and Jesus is the light of the world, then it follows that God’s word serves as a lamp by which we may see and walk as we travel this journey of spirituality. But again, I question…why are we so often making the choice to walk without that light?
Another way of looking at this issue of light is addressing our responsibility as followers of Christ to be light in a dark world. We are called to be the light of the world. Not just salt, but light also. Paul explains that all who have been obedient to the will of God in a response to his initiative of love have clothed themselves with Christ. This implies more than simply being able to stand before the Father and have him see Christ’s sacrificial offering instead of my sin. Being clothed with Christ also implies a shining forth the glory of God in a world that is dark and destitute. So often we see and understand the truth of God’s word concerning Jesus as the light but fail to fulfill God’s will for our lives by being light as well. Why is this the case?
It may be that we are afraid of what others will say or think about us if we are living such radically counter-cultural lives. The world says we need to live for ourselves and do what makes us feel good. This is challenging because we become so self-intoxicated that we fail to realize we often bring a shadow or veil upon the Christ-clothing we wear. Paul says we are to think soberly, not more highly of ourselves than we ought. In other words, we are no avoid becoming drunk on ourselves and so distorting or dimming the very light we are called to project. As Ralph Gilmore once said, “This isn’t rocket surgery!” We need to realize who we have been called to be and have faith in God enough to fulfill that calling. Christ is our great example. He is the light of the world, and he calls us to continue shining his light as we walk along the paths of this world.