Light is shining. You are either running away or running towards it; hiding in the dark or performing on the stage. Who are you?
We use spotlights in the dark regularly – to see where we are going, to find something, to avoid walking into something. There is also a spotlight that reveals the space inside of us. The spotlight I am referring to is our awareness. Peck (1) noted that the amount of power we have correlates to the amount of awareness we keep when making decisions.
So, how do we improve awareness? A number of ways – education, self-reflection, communication with others – all have the potential to broaden our radar of awareness – that of ourselves, as well as that of the world. You would recall the times you experienced something like an epiphany while speaking with a friend or reading a book… as if a light went on and you suddenly became aware of something that was hidden from you before.
I sometimes wonder if this was one of the goals, if not the goal, of the Law too. It is light, rather than rules, that I associate God with. As soon as He appears there is light. From ‘Let there be light’ to the flashlights on Mount Sinai and the light from the Bethlehem star leading the wise men to Bethlehem. The narrative of most religious stories is mostly strung between the poles of light and dark/good and evil. The law is used too much like a whip and not enough like a spotlight. We use it to persuade people away from bad behaviour and toward good behaviour. It conditions our thoughts and not our hearts. So, for example, I end up not speeding, because I don’t want to sit in a cell for a night, because it is cold and lonely there, and it costs money. It does little to affect my sense of responsibility and care for others’ lives. Laws don’t change our mindsets.
Our awareness is the result of the big bang – the words of Jesus, Himself, calling light into existence. When His light shines it separates life from non-life. This has always been the effect when Jesus shows up, and still is. When He showed up through the Law it brought into our awareness the truth about Him and about us. Never after this could we be ignorant of the sin inside of us again. When Jesus was born it was not to condemn, however. The world became aware of the fact that it was already in a state of condemnation. Through Him grace came to us and it showed the complete story – sin on the one side and grace on the other. For if we only heard how wrong we were that would keep us in jail. When Jesus showed that He is humble at heart it opened up a space at the feet of His throne. Using the law wrongly takes away the space to try and grow. Failing is too big a risk if condemnation would be the consequence – so in a sense the Law alone does the opposite of what the light intended to show us. If we are only sinners saved by grace that basically says: ” You are so bad that you must be thankful for just receiving your small space in heaven so just stay there and don’t try anything”. It brings about no change and leaves us in a state of passivity. But, look what the law did to Zaccheus. Jesus has lunch with him in his home. When the light shone there it caused a big change. Zaccheus starts living a radically different and exciting life. The law not only condemned him, it changed him.
What if the law of Moses was more like a flashlight? Something that shows us the facts – as they stand, and then brings into awareness a whole new way of thinking and living or being. It shows the good and the bad. It brings to awareness the reality of society – we see how bad stealing, hating, lying, etc. is and opens up the possibility of a life filled with the opposite – caring, belonging, and loving. It brings to awareness our own capacity to hate and kill, but at the same time shows us the alternative, a deeper desire to be good or at least better. And when we realize that the light comes from somewhere, maybe we will see the beauty, the possibilities, and a life worth living when we turn to the light. Maybe we will move closer to reality – life at its fullest – when we pay attention to the light rather than the shadows it casts. If God is the Light and all the bad things flowing from our hearts get in the way between us and God, then the commandments are only the shadows falling on the ground. Why will we show each other the shadows in our lives? Why not rather get rid of that which is in the way? God’s light is shining and He wants to show us something, but we seem to keep on trying to get rid of the shadows in our life – ignoring that which is in between.
If this is true then the law becomes our friend and not our enemy, something to grab onto and not shy away from. Then the goal of the law is less about condemning and more about stimulating growth. We may start off with guilt and shame, but must not stop there, for now, a new horizon is revealed in the light and we must find a way to get there. We must grow. For the light reveals everything – from our pitiful souls to the miracles all around us. We must traverse the virgin territory and navigate novel issues necessitating change and adaptation. We will seek ways of getting from where we are to where we could be. Nothing can happen before we have become aware – we can only work with what we are conscious of.
Jesus tried to help us with this, because He saw that when we would hear what He had to say, we would not understand. ‘When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes – so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to Me that I would heal them (2). A lot of time was spent on growing our awareness. He pointed out our ignorance many times. Was it not our ignorance that made us lead the blind when we were the blind? (3); that made us miss the log in our own eye? (4); and ‘ever be seeing, but never perceiving’? (5) If someone’s eye is dark, it must be dark in him indeed’. (6)
There’s a reason we sometimes opt for hiding away – we sense that big problems might lurk in the dark and feel overwhelmed. Our shadows might seem insurmountable. There is a risk that we might remain in denial and then go back to the old ways which have proven successful before, only to find they don’t work anymore. In some backward way, the prosperity gospel has lead many to fall into this trap, presenting a ‘word-of-faith’ type of religion where I am supposed to declare and focus on the positive and employ ‘faith’ so that we do not end up in sticky situations. So as to imply that misfortune in your life is a sign of little faith. I reckon that seeking prosperity hinders spiritual growth. Maybe it is the truth we should be seeking. There is a risk of becoming resentful, mad and heavy-hearted when we start to be open with ourselves, but we must grow out of it.
Compare person A with person B. Person A confesses that he will not get COVID and he doesn’t – so he testifies of God’s goodness. Person B gets paralysed by a gunshot wound and for the rest of his life has to ask the dark questions of why he cannot dance with his daughter. Who will need more faith? Who will need to grow more to remain faithful? Person A or person B?
Maybe the law is asking a different question than what we thought. Not: ‘can you avoid condemnation?‘, but ‘do you love the light?‘
“The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought light to everyone”John 1:4
- The road less travelled. M Scott Peck; Arrow: 1990
- Mat 13:13
- Mat 15:14
- Luk 6:42
- Mat 13:14
- Mat 6:23