My Darkness, My Light

Thoughts on on 1 John and walking in the light

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 
~ 1 John 1:5-7

The Contrast of Light and Darkness:
As far as recorded human history allows us to go, the dichotomy between light and darkness has been figuratively, and in some cases even literally, viewed as combatants in a ageless battle for dominance.  We can see aspects of this primitive outlook in the Bible’s creation story - “God separated the light from the darkness” (Gen. 1:4).  The motif of light’s rulership/dominance can be scene in the creation account when on the fourth day God “…made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night…” (Gen 1:16). As an image of order, light is the ally of people and all their endeavors, protecting and aiding them in life.

It is impossible to understand the biblical imagery of light without seeing it as the great antithesis and conqueror of darkness.

Light has been associated with the presence, truth, and redemptive activity of God since creation. Throughout the Bible, light represents truth, goodness, righteousness (or rightness), harmony, love, shalom, and God’s redemptive work.

• God's commands are a lamp, his teaching is a light, and his correction and instruction are the way to life (e.g., Prov. 6:23).

• Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path (e.g., Psalm 119:105).

• The word of the prophets is a light shinning in a dark place (e.g., 2 Pet. 1:19).

 

Darkness, on the other hand, symbolizes error, evil, the works of Satan, error, confusion, deceit, disorder, etc.; it’s not simply unrighteousness, but better stated - unrightness; darkness is brokenness, disharmony, and hatred; it is life outside of Eden - where God is not.

• The prophets would often use darkness to describe evil, instability, chaos, or, simply stated, how life is NOT supposed to be (e.g., Jer. 4:23;Is 5:30).

• Hell is usually described as a place of darkness (e.g., Matt. 8:12).

 

Walking in the Lightlight darkness
In the Scriptures, walking is a often metaphor of a person’s lifestyle (the image of walking suggesting continuing progress in time and in a chosen direction).  In the New Testament, walking was a metaphor for how Christians are expected to live. John alone among the Gospels portrays Jesus as encouraging his people to walk in the light rather than in darkness (Jn. 8:12; 11:9). This expression also occurs in John’s letters, which are small classics in the literature of how Christians are to live. Believers are not to walk in darkness (1 Jn. 1:1–6; 2 Jn. 11) but in the light (1 Jn. 1:7); they “must walk as Jesus did” (1 Jn. 2:6), in the truth (2 Jn. 4; 3 Jn. 3–4), in obedience to God’s commands and in love (2 Jn. 6).[1]

Walking in the light is to have fellowship with God.  It's life as it should be.  Life with God as it should be, life with others as it should be, and life with all of creation as it should be.  It’s clarity instead of confusion; hope in place of dismay; and rightness instead of brokenness.

The Confusion
But our world has confused how things should be with how things are. We've confused the true life we were made live with a series of broken promises which lead to broken lives.

We’ve chosen to live and walk in the darkness instead of the light.

Isaiah describes humanity’s problem quite well, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Is. 5:20).  John says it another way, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (Jn. 3:19).

My Darkness; My Light
The first 16 years of my life was spent in this darkness.  My darkness included a broken, divorced family at the age of five, confusion, anger, and the propensity to do the wrong thing (I was especially good at this).

My darkness further lead to a seemingly endless pursuit of self-gratification at basically anyone's expense - drugs, sex, violence, deception, broken relationships, and the like.  This path of darkness lead me to emptiness, loneliness, and a severe cynicism about God, culture, people, and life itself.

In the midst of my darkness, discontentment, self-destructive behavior, and aims toward suicide, I begged for something else. Something in me knew this was not the way things should be.

By the mercies of God I was arrested, though only 16, I was charged as an adult. And in an incredibly dark place, prison became the breading-ground for God's light in my life.

Through the Gospel of Jesus, my darkness was replaced with his light, my despair with his joy, my cynicism with his hope, my hell for his Eden, my brokenness with his life.

You Can Take the Convict Out of Prison; But Never the Prison Out of The Convict
There’s no need to sugarcoat things.  I still struggle with my darkness; and many times I loose that struggle giving way to the darkness remaining within me (Rom. 7:18-19).  Sure, my present battles with sin are bit more socially acceptable then in my teenage years, but the propensity toward darkness and to gratify myself, even at the expense of those I care about the most, is still alive and well.  But God’s Word is always there, not only reminding me of God’s relentless love and forgiveness in the Gospel (1 Tim. 1:15), but also pointing me in how I was meant to live:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  ~ 1 Peter 2:9

 

[1] Ryken, L., Wilhoit, J., Longman, T., Duriez, C., Penney, D., & Reid, D. G. (2000). Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.