John and Paul sometimes get under my skin with their insistence that in Christ we are children of the light, not of the dark. We walk in light, surrounded by light, and, thanks to God, the dark has been banished. They can make it sound like Christians, real faithful ones at least, live in some kind of happy land where everything is light, goodness, and joy. They know better of course, but it’s not hard to pull that kind of understanding out of the Johannine and Pauline texts.
I understand the theology, but, as a practical matter even Christians, or maybe especially Christians, spend a lot of time wandering around in the dark. I say especially because we may be more aware of the dark, more quick to realize its presence, and are better informed about what the light looks and feels like. We know that the dark, which so often surrounds us, is not what God intends, and, that people, by their own human fault, choose to live in the shadows.
What I mean is that God has told us what living more into the light requires. It is not beyond our reach, but it’s too much bother. How hard is it to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God? Maybe not that hard for an hour in church once a week, but we are easily distracted by other things, mostly combinations and permutations of selfishness, and some have been so submerged in dark places that even to imagine what the light might be like is beyond comprehension. It’s a form of spiritual blindness compounded by spiritual ignorance, sometimes aided and abetted by prejudice, stupidity, and laziness.
I don’t think we are called to live in some fairy tale happy land of light, as if we had emigrated to a new and better place, leaving the old behind and forgotten. Those who think they do suffer from their own form of naive spiritual blindness. Rather, I think we are called to be bearers of Christ’s light, in whatever cracked pot we might carry it, in the real world as we find it, a world that is more often in darkness. It is a light that cannot be extinguished if we are only willing to carry it. Somehow or another it will always bring something of the Kingdom of God along with it.
A few local pastors think that means building ramparts and fighting against the forces of evil as prayer warriors armed with God’s infallible Word. It’s horrible imagery. I think they’ve got it all wrong, and are using the tactics of darkness to fight darkness, a sort of Machiavellian form of superficially Christianized realpolitik. They would be better off working on loving one another as Christ has loved us, and loving their enemies as well.
Which brings up another question. We spend a lot of time pondering the parable of the Good Samaritan and debating about who our neighbors are, but perhaps we should spend time pondering who our enemies are. Who and what is it that stands against doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God? Who and what is it that stands against loving one another as Christ loved us? I don’t believe that the right answers will have anything to do with homosexuality, women’s rights, immigration, or a host of other popular issues. From my experience in the last few weeks, the symptoms that point toward right answers are flagged with self righteousness, violence, hatred, ignorance, bigotry, self loathing, cruelty, betrayal, and the like. Of course, I’ve been ankle deep (not deeper than that) in suicide, homicide, drug abuse, spousal abuse, and gang mentality, so I might be a little prejudiced myself.