I am the light of the world! The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. 

–John 8:12 NET


One evening, years ago, our church youth group met at our house. I was a bit young, but Mom & Dad let me go into the basement to hang with the big kids. Danny, my best friend’s older brother, could tell the best stories. He was especially skilled at telling ghost stories. Ever since that night, I would beg my parents not to make me go into the basement alone—or at least let one of my sisters go with me. Not until years later did it occur to us that Danny’s storytelling got to me. And to be honest, I still get the willies down my spine when walking into dark rooms.

After declaring himself the light of the world, Jesus, in the next chapter (John 9), illustrates his effect on the world by giving light to the blind man. The religious leaders (Pharisees), illustrating darkness, couldn’t see past their dogma and traditions. Rather than rejoice that a man can now see, they grumbled that Jesus healed on a Sabbath. In an attempt to reconcile the story, these religious leaders finally concluded the man must not have been blind in the first place.

Crouching behind religious “belief” and assumption, the Pharisees couldn’t see what was right in front of them. Jesus’ actions did not fit their tightly held conclusions, which left no room for mystery or a God who does not fit in any box they thought they understood. How might this even be true in our own lives? Where do we hide behind tightly held religious assumptions that go beyond what God clearly says in Scriptures and keep us from honestly examining our prejudice, racism, sexism, patriotism, and the like? Where might we be unkind or unloving in how we treat or even think about people using our understanding of scripture to define the moral high ground? Even our attitude toward differing denominations needs to come under scrutiny because to fail in this kind of deep inner examination across the board can (and has) led to atrocious behavior.

Jesus came for sinners. The religious could not see past their dogma to realize they needed the light and salvation Jesus offered. Like the Pharisee who prayed, “Thank you that I’m not like the bad people” (Luke 18:11), we can assume all is well because we meet certain standards of God’s requirements for entry into his heaven. Or we can slump into the corner, humbly asking God for mercy because we know the real, deeper score. We need his light to shine upon us, in us, and through us daily for us to even see the world well.

And so, we learn to pray, “Jesus, be the light of my life. Dispel the darkness of my fears, pride, and anxiety. Break down the darkness of my presumption and bias so that I may both see the world as you see it and become another light shining in dark places. And distill in me a growing gratitude for your presence in unlikely places. Amen.”


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