True light brings enlightenment
“There is the true light, which coming into the world, enlightens every man.” (Jn 1:9)
1. There is the true light. By implication there must also be false light. There is undoubtedly also varying shades of true light. Jesus is the only true light because he is the only one to have been with God from the beginning. How could anyone match that as a source of wisdom? Historic and contemporary prophets and teachers who are in touch with the teachings, spirit and influence of Jesus may succeed in conveying aspects of, or shades of, or selected wavelengths of, the true light. The closer their spirit is to the spirit of Jesus, the brighter the illumination. John Baptist was dubbed by Jesus ‘the greatest of the (old testament Jewish) prophets’. He was pretty close to the light. But he wasn’t the true light. He preached only four main points. Very monochrome. But very effective. All human knowledge, understanding, wisdom, experience and communication is flawed, filtered or otherwise partial. One wonderful thing about Jesus is that he promised to transplant the source of true light directly into everyone who accepts him. This is a huge relief to those who have become used to shades of grey, thick theological filters and the dulling and enslaving effects of religious legalism. There is the true light and he enlightens every man. Direct, personal, empowering, life-changing illumination.
2. Which coming into the world, enlightens every man. There are two senses in which this is so.
(a) First, the coming of the eternal light into the world literally made the world and everyone in it, that much brighter. Like radiation coming into the earth’s atmosphere and being trapped by greenhouse gases. Everything warms up as a result. Good ideas catch on and truth has a habit of establishing itself over time. It would be impossible to track the billions of pathways in which the ‘true light coming into the world’ infected the world for good. But it must have. Else it was not true light. Pick an example close to you to convince yourself of how this is happening all the time. Everyone can think of someone who has been influenced for good by being confronted with some aspect of truth. Good has a habit of infecting bad, light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot extinguish it. Many of the great breakthroughs in modern medicine and other sciences came from people searching for order in the material world because they believed that there was an orderly mind behind it. Economies work better where there is more trust. Countries with cultures that are low on trust have difficulties with economic growth and stability. Mangers perform better when they praise, encourage and thank their workers. Societies work better when there is more respect of others. Mental health and happiness is better when there is forgiveness. Contentment is greater when there is less materialism and greed. No one need defend the true light. The true light coming into the world is like a drop of dye dropped into a glass of water – it colours everything differently. The sun and the rain fall equally on the good and the bad, the believing and the unbelieving, the just and the unjust. The influences of Jesus’ life and teaching fall equally on the good and the bad, the receptive and the unreceptive. Under the influence of Jesus, an Act of parliament was passed in 19th century Britain to outlaw child factory labour. The earliest recorded formal English edict against slave trading was made at the Westminster (church) Synod in 1104, which pronounced a rule against ‘that wicked’ practice of selling serfs (bonded labourers) in London. The action seems to have arisen as a result of a disgust with the practice of treating men ‘like beasts’. The amount of compassion, wisdom, love and truth in the world is greater as a result of the coming of the true light.
(b) Which coming into the world, enlightens every man (who receives and submits to that light). This is the second meaning. The message of Jesus is a personal one. It works without religious infrastructure and encumbrances. It is a liberating message. Receive the revelations of Jesus and your world will blaze with light. Like a blind person suddenly seeing or a prisoner walking free from a dark cell into the bright light of day. Each individual living with a spirit infused with the spirit of Jesus can change the world, their world, because Jesus is the source of all intelligence and order in the created world and he lives in side them, bringing light to all men.
3. To extend the thought, if Jesus is the true light that came into the world, then what of all the many other prophets who claim to bring light? What of the world’s religions? There is a simple and a more complicated way of answering this question. Here’s the simple one. Truth does not need to be proven by argument. Certainly not by conflict and warfare. It simply is. Truth prevails. Wins out. Light triumphs over darkness. So we should not concern ourselves too much with what others do or do not believe. We should be more concerned with living in the light. A simple life lived humbly, empowered by the indwelling spirit of Jesus to love and forgive, may win over the greatest atheistic mind or the most ardent anti-Christian. A single act of compassion can turn a violent enemy into a friend. The ability to truly forgive is so difficult for a person that it may not be an exaggeration to call it supernatural. Anyone who genuinely hungers and thirsts after righteousness (goodness, Godliness, kindness, truthfulness), will be drawn to the truth when they see it. Particularly, they will be drawn to the power to love and forgive. We do not, generally, have to worry about what people do not have in their religion. We should pray they receive light. Pray, as Jesus did, that all would come to the light, from whatever starting point, gender, age, cultural, social, economic or religious background. Light is light. Truth is truth. We don’t have to defend it. We just have to receive it, live it, propagate it. In that way, Jesus draws all men to himself.
The Eternal Father:
My daughter, why do you live in shadows when I give you the light of the World?
It is true. Rarely do I awake eagerly to the bright dawn of day, seeking more often to keep the curtains closed or even draw them tighter. The light you bring is sometimes too bright for me, exposing things I am ashamed of but not ready to give up; or pointing a way that is too big, too unknown, too full of uncertainty and risk, too beyond my horizon. Forgive me, Eternal Light, for not yielding to your beckoning. Your enlightenment is sufficient for me. I will adventure into the light without fear and throw away the love of shadows.