Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is! – Matt 6:22-3
Can you see the light? This passage comes at the end of the Beatitudes, and I have been thinking about it all week. It is so insightful about our human condition and how Jesus relates to us.
Light in Scripture means so many things doesn’t it. In Isaiah 9, it says a people living in darkness have seen a great light and there it is referring to Jesus coming to the Jews first, and then the Gentiles. The wise men were guided to him by a great light, John announces him as “the light of the world” and in Revelation, we will live for eternity with him as the light that literally replaces the sun. Jesus then, clearly, is the light that is referred to throughout Scripture.
But there is more to it than that as well isn’t there. Light and darkness often refer to our condition, with specific relation to our sinful state before God. We are said to walk in the light, when Christ’s righteousness covers our own. That is getting closer to what Jesus is talking about here. He says that the eye is the lamp of our body; we see with our eyes, and the question for all of us is, can we see the light? When we can light, or righteousness, floods our entire body.
This has been illuminating for me (!) over the past few weeks, which I will come to in a sec. You see, there is another passage in Scripture that says ‘the prince of this world has blinded the hearts and minds of unbelievers.’ It is a powerful statement and it ties back to this passage, and to the entire essence of why Christ was sent. Aside from making a person right with God through his own sacrifice, the very first thing Jesus through his Spirit does in a believer’s life, is enable them to begin to see light and darkness, or right and wrong. The world simply cannot determine the difference on its own.
We are counselling a married couple at the moment, walking alongside them as they try to save their marriage – I wonder if we learn as much as they do in the process. One is barely a believer, the other not, and as a consequence they cannot see where they are going wrong. What is wrong, is their sin, which is ‘piled high to heaven’ to lift a phrase from Isaiah again. Only Jesus can shine his light into our lives so that we can actually discern what is wrong with us. When we can discern, then we can see to change, and as we begin to make the change (with his help) things improve. Without his light, we grovel in darkness, unaware of the real problems.
This has been enormously helpful in realising that without Christ, people simply cannot see the difference between light and dark, right or wrong. We start to make up our own morality and we’re often only vaguely aware that something is even really wrong.
Jesus finishes this passage with an alarming ending – that is, if we see the darkness in our lives as being light, then we really are very dark indeed. This is exactly what we are seeing in our couple at the moment – unable to judge by the true light of Christ, everything is ‘good’ – even the bad. We pray then, that the Lord of Light will ‘unblind’ them, so that they may recognise what is wrong. Christ and us together can begin to change our lives for good.
Think this isn’t important? God thinks it’s crucial. If we can’t see the darkness of our own lives, then what Jesus warns us here is that we will descend into such darkness and always justify it as being ‘light’. Think ISIS as a current example.
It is why, when we present the Gospel on the streets, we almost always start with trying to open people’s eyes up to sin. As we do, we pray that He begins to open their eyes to what they are being told, so that they can see – perhaps for the first time. Jesus is always the answer to our sin. Always.
I don’t know if all of that is clear but I hope so. Friends, the enormity of the task is overwhelming. We must all learn to bring Jesus into our conversations. We must try to find a way to gently show people that they are sinful as well, and along the way, pray that he will open their eyes and shine his light. It is the beginning of salvation. The beginning of all hope.