What if light is worth pursuing?

The first week of February is nearly over. After enduring the previous ‘back to reality’ month of failed new year’s resolutions, dark mornings, sobriety, exams and debt, for some, the end of January can seem like the light at the end of the tunnel. Writing this, I hope that honesty and truth come through my words; this is not a piece of religious propaganda but rather personal testimony as to why I believe in the God of the Bible. If anything, I hope that this blog brings you hope and shows you a different insight into Christianity, as we look into the claim made by an old-school BNOC, who is still making waves around the world today.

Here’s a story. It’s controversial and a bit confusing on first read – but this account explains the basis of who Jesus is and what he does. It’s taken from the Gospel of John, a book in the Bible which documents the life of Jesus. Maybe you don’t want to give this elusive historical figure any of your time – especially when he’s only seen on your Gran’s rosaries or heard as a cuss word tossed around daily – but you must admit that he’s hard to ignore. I implore you to do a quick Google search into the credibility of the New Testament texts and check out the first blog in this series. At the least, it’s difficult to disprove that these events happened, so we’re left with… well, does this mean anything for my life, or are all Christians simply brainwashed?

You can find the full passage in John 8:12-30.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’

Jesus stands up in the Jewish temple – a place where people are plotting his death – and he claims to be the ‘light of the world.’ Straight up, that’s no feeble statement. I think it’s great when the idea of light is used in the Bible. Light influences the circadian rhythms that govern our waking and sleeping, allows photosynthesis to occur in plants to produce oxygen and keeps our planet warm. Since the development of artificial lighting, mankind is now able to control light, and so electricity blurs the boundaries between day and night. We rely on light to fill our device screens with information, guide us across roads and illuminate airport runways. Light is very important for security and forensic work, and most of us understand what it is to ‘shed light’ on a situation.

Have you noticed how intrigued we all are with the concept of light? I was recently in Copenhagen, and the Danes are fascinated with the specific placing of lamps around rooms to create ambience and coziness (or hygge). Light draws us – we go to fireworks displays and light shows, and marvel at the sun setting.

Light guides. Light comforts. Light corrects. Light stirs awe. Light is truthful.

In Bible times, people were very familiar with the concept God as light. The Israelites were led by a pillar of fire in the Old Testament and sang songs that praised God as their light and salvation. I can start to see why Jesus uses this familiar imagery, because it’s not hard to notice the significance of light. So, what does it mean when Jesus claims to be the light of the world?

Are we living our best lives? Some say we are. I have experienced many good things in my short life – trips to new places, delicious food, gifts and exam success. Other, less materialistic things include: a loving family, health, and the opportunity to study at university. Acquiring and experiencing these good things has brought me buckets of happiness and memories.

But then, once we think we’ve made it, don’t we always look for the next thing? The light at the end of the tunnel only gets further away; the tunnel morphs into a roundabout, a never-ending cycle, where the light is unreachable. I imagine the port tunnel that leads to the M1 on the way to the mighty north, and wonder what it would be like if the tunnel never ended. If you stare for long enough out the windscreen, the vehicle feels motionless, as the repeating panels of the tunnel blur into one frame – it’s like we’ve stopped in time. This idea of a ‘roundabout’ life is quite dark and scary, so we continually tell ourselves ‘sure be grand,’ while anxiety, tiredness, hardship, illness stress, guilt, and wrongdoings plague our lives. We just accept that this is just life. ‘Ugh, life,’ I often say. It’s a lovely feeling to emerge out of the tunnel, off the bus and into open air, where the sun dances through the trees and you can see for miles. So is life just a vicious cycle of highs and lows, with no meaning? With no light? Can we escape the dark tunnel? 

Going back to the story – as I reread the passage, I began to understand Jesus’ words at a deeper level as he disputes with the religious leaders. When he refers to himself as light, it’s not a claim to be a good teacher with great ideas and vibrant character.

Without light, there is darkness – darkness that only Jesus can overcome. Jesus claims to be God. And the imagery of light shows what God is like – He is truth, He knows all, He stirs awe; He is a God who guides, comforts and secures.

If this is true, the weight is two-fold. When we believe in a God who is all knowing and all powerful, we might be fearful. But we need to know the good news of Jesus – that God loves us enough to offer this light and life to us, though we are not entitled to it. Jesus offers us Himself as Saviour, Lord and friend, having paid the greatest price to make this possible. Through what Jesus has done on the cross, we can be called God’s children, and we can call God our Father.

When we believe in a God who is all knowing and all powerful, we might be fearful. But we need to know the good news of Jesus – that God loves us enough to offer this light and life to us, though we are not entitled to it.

Jesus – the light of the world – offers a different narrative when he calls people to follow him. Instead of a hopeless circle, life becomes a straight line. We leave the tunnel, we step off the bus, we reach the light we’ve been longing for. There is direction, movement and trajectory. There is guidance, hope and purpose.  Most importantly, that ‘God-shaped hole’ (not to be cliché) carved out by our own sin can be filled. To those who want this light – admitting their need for help and calling on Him to provide it – the light floods in, dispels the darkness in our souls, and lights up our path.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
   and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
   the night will shine like the day,
   for darkness is as light to you.
Psalm 139:11-12

This isn’t to say that life’s lemons are extinct. We still face trials and slip up daily. But this is where the properties of God’s light are observed – grace, joy, peace and hope. The ‘wave-particle duality of light’ means that light possesses properties of both a particle and a wave – a brave paradox, as these are two completely different things. Similarly with God, we cannot always understand our circumstances. For me at this time, sometimes I feel lost. I question myself, my abilities, make comparisons with others and fear for what direction my life will take. But light doesn’t stop behaving the way we know it; it constantly and reliably guides many planes to the runway and catalyses millions of reactions inside leaves across the world. In the same way, Jesus’ words don’t stop being true for me, despite my circumstances. They give us peace, motivation and strength. We give up our weaknesses and pride, and let the Lighthouse guide us. I am reminded that life is a brilliant picture, lit up at all corners with hope and joy. Jesus’ light is something that lasts forever.

Well, is it true? How can we know that something is light? This quote by C. J. Wright was helpful for me.

“How can light convince us that it is light except by what it does for us? We do not demonstrate that light is light by treatises, or by analyses of its constituent rays. It is only light to us when it illumines and quickens us.”

Written by Kathryn, Junior Sophister, Chemistry.