We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy. This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. – 1 John
I wanted to talk about the other family we met last week. Remember them, they are believers as well. If you met with them, perhaps you might disagree. A few years ago, I probably would have as well.
Many years ago, I stayed with a lady who cleaned up addicts. She told me the story of a young heroin addict – 17 years old, who had been badly abused by several members of his family as a young boy. He stayed with her to get cleaned up; he used heroin to numb the pain. She took him to the local church that she attended, and they were clearly disturbed. What do we do with someone like this? She was asked to leave.
She would clean him up, this boy, but he would fall back into his habit, such a vicious habit and she would care for him in his desperation. It was difficult to let go of the pain. Eventually, aged just in his late teens, he committed suicide. Life had become too unbearable. But here’s the thing. He left behind his journal, and in it she read the tenderest words imaginable. She read of a starving human being who called on the name of Jesus each night, who went to sleep with tears and prayers of forgiveness on his lips, unable to make sense of why so many, including the church, had rejected and abused him. His only hope was that this Jesus might not. I will never forget that story, nor the tears that went with it. Just Jesus. We believe he found grace amidst the hell here on earth.
So we come to our family, whom we meet from time to time. Some have addictions, some disabilities. They are dirty, and they feel guilty and probably embarrassed about the state of the place where they live. They needn’t. I feel more alive in there, than in most of the swanky business offices I visit each week. We talk of fears, and hopes, dreams and realities, all based around Jesus. He figures quite a lot, and in the darkness he is there.
Of all the writers in Scripture, John deals with this issue with great compassion. “This is the verdict: some love light, some don’t,” he tells us in his earlier Gospel. It is the key.
We must be very careful, very careful indeed, in casting aspersions, or rejecting those that don’t meet our self-determined criteria: who is in, who is not. It is the loving the light, that is the measuring stick, not perfection. Let us be very clear on this. CS Lewis, in one of the great books ever penned, Christian Personality, sternly warns us against judging others against our own yardstick because only God knows the heart of each, and the circumstances that lead each of us to where we are now. As Lewis points out, one day there will be many surprises.
Jesus is after people who love the light, and they are the ones he draws to himself. He may love everyone, but he cannot help those who refuse to come to the light. Think of the many in the Gospels, who seemingly were so righteous yet were in fact so far away. The nicest, most religious person we know, who has all sorts of wonderful qualities but does not love the light, has no hope of ever seeing him. Yet, the very worst of us, who consistently and constantly messes up every day of our life, yet is broken and humble enough can “come into the light so that his deeds may be exposed.” There, they will find grace, there they will find forgiveness. Do we see that?
Such a person, as the one we meet with in the dark living room, is not concerned with what others think. In fact, he already knows, for he has felt the stares, the indignation. But, in their simplicity, they would rather be right with God than to have any person look up and esteem them; there are many, even within our churches alas, who would be counted as great, and holy, and worthy and mighty – even when it is not true about them anyway.
Fix that standard in your mind my friends; those who love the light are those who will walk with God, fellowship with the one who has already lived in eternity and with his brothers and sisters in complete joy. Last week I was prayed over by a simpleton. In just 2 simple sentences, I have rarely felt such devotion, such seriousness and genuineness.
Jesus, light of the world. Do we love the light, or are we deluding ourselves with our good works, our externals, our own righteousness. At this time of year especially, this is an eternal question we must ask ourselves.