A few years back, our family took a tour through Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. At one point in a deep, open part of the cavern, our guide gathered us all together and told us we were about to experience true darkness. In today’s post-Edison world, we don’t ever experience true darkness. But deep in that cave, we were about to see what that was like … or not see, as it were. We grabbed on to the children as the guide snuffed out the lanterns, and we were left in pitch-black. It was disconcerting, to say the least. We could truly not see our hands in front of our faces, and no one dared to take one step as we all clutched our offspring’s arms tighter than they normally allowed. And then … our guide lit one tiny candle. It was amazing to see the difference one small flame could make in pushing back the darkness.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there is a lot of darkness in today’s world. Gun violence, drug cartels, sex trafficking, abuse, corrupt governments, division, and anger. How can we possibly combat this? How can we be lights in the dark world? Here are a few thoughts:
1. Remember where the light originates.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
God called light into being, and he will not let the darkness overcome it. God has created us in his likeness, and he has called us to be lights of the world. And if he has given us that purpose and the promise of being a lamp for our feet and a light for our path, then we don’t need to despair. We don’t need to be scared of the dark. God is our source of light and life.
2. Remember how light shines in the darkness.
If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. (Isaiah 58:10)
Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16)
When that candle flickered to life in the cavern, all eyes were drawn to the flame. In the same way, in this dark world, real flames of joy and peace and patience and kindness are super visible. They cause people to stop and stare. They cause people to wonder what the source of the light is. We don’t win anybody over by screaming fire and brimstone messages at them on a street corner or dropping Jesus pamphlets on their doorsteps or paying for a billboard that reads, “Are you ready to meet Jesus?” Nope. We display the light of Christ to a hurt and broken world when we show love to people in real, tangible ways. Food. Clothing. Babysitting. A listening ear or a comfortable shoulder. Moving a piano or a giant sectional couch. A kind word and a prayer. And I’m not just talking about people we already love or people who are easy to love. Jesus didn’t just show love to his inner circle of friends and family. He loved big-time sinners; he had dinner with tax collectors and prostitutes. He loved them all. He calls us to do the same. Not someday. Not later when we get our act together. Not just in church among our safe churchy friends. Now. Here. In the world. Let’s be lights in the world so that we can push back the darkness and point people to Jesus.
3. Remember where the light leads.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5)
The light leads to healing for the nations. The light leads to the city of God. The Light who came into this world full of the darkness of sin gave himself for us on the cross so that we could be with him in the light for ever and ever. And he wants us to use our lights to point other people to him. As the old-timey kids’ song goes, we can’t hide that light under a bushel. Not sure if people know what a bushel even is anymore, but the sentiment remains—let it shine. Share the good news of salvation to a world that is desperate for hope. Push back the darkness. Let there be lights.