Occasionally our church tries to promote family togetherness in the form of a camp out. I don’t completely understand how sleeping on the hard ground in the cold air, protected only by nylon, brings families together, but we do it anyways.
Despite being amateur campers, we own an amazing flashlight. Somehow someone figured out how to capture a piece of the sun, contain it in plastic, and then give it an on switch. The flashlight projects a beam of light so bright that it makes me feel like Moses and the Red Sea.
I raise my arms and the darkness seems to split in two.
At night, when it becomes dark, the flashlight is needed. Without it we could lose important items that keep us safe and warm. We might stumble on a rock or branches and fall. And, God forbid, we might get lost in the woods.
When a Tool Becomes a Weapon
Sitting by the campfire, the adults will occasionally hear a child scream. Some worry that someone has been injured, which is partly true. The scream typically indicate that my kids have stolen the flashlight and are scaring other kids with it.
If this bright light is shined directly in the face of someone, it doesn’t help them see anything. In fact it does the opposite. It can burn their retinas and blind them.
Sometimes the light is worse than the darkness.
The Light of the World
Growing up in church we constantly recited the Bible verse about being the light of the world.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)
We thought of ourselves in the same way that my kids think of our camping flashlight.
We would hide behind trees and when we heard some unsuspecting individual approaching we would suddenly jump out and shine the light in their face.
Our hope was to help. Our desire was to show them what what was wrong with them and that we could fix it.
Looking back, I think we caused more damage than good.
The Purpose of Light
Our problem was that we misunderstood the purpose of light.
We thought that our job was to chase the darkness away, but light does something even better. Light reflects beauty.
In The Message, Eugene Peterson captures this concept in the same passage.
Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.
When light travels through the air, depending on the properties of the object, some of the light will be reflected. What we see is this reflection. The light that bounties off stimulates the retina and then the cerebral cortex forming an image.
Sometimes what we see is so beautiful we don’t just see it, we feel it.
A red rose. The snow-capped mountains. A beautiful sunset. The smile of my children.
The beauty exists independent of light, but it is the light that allows us to see it. The light itself is nothing. We don’t even notice it. It’s only job is to reflect.
But we do notice when the light isn’t there.
The Purpose of our Lives
The world is full of darkness. The brokenness is sometimes so heavy it is the only thing we can see. And we forget about the beauty. God made everything and said it was good. More importantly, God made each of us in his image.
And God is in the process of making all things new.
Beauty exists and we can see it if the light will reflect it.
Our goal, as the light of the world, is to reflect this beauty.
The more we reflect beauty, the more the darkness will fade.
[Photo: GS+, Creative Commons]