Article for the September issue of The Hillside Messenger
“The Effects of Christ’s Light shining into the Soul”
In this month’s article, I turn to the Lord Jesus Christ’s sayings about the lamp of the body:
No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light. The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light.
(Luke 11:33-36, KJV)
This passage follows our Lord’s declaration that no sign would be given to this evil generation that was seeking a sign from him, except the sign of Jonah, who was a sign to the Ninevites (Luke 11:30). He warns that both the queen of the south and the people of Nineveh will judge this generation, because the former came a great distance to hear the wisdom of King Solomon, and the latter repented at the preaching of Jonah, and He is greater than either King Solomon or the prophet Jonah (Luke 11:31-32).
In a dark house in ancient times, and in the centuries before gas lamps and electricity, olive oil lamps and candles provided light. Such candles would always be put in candlesticks, or lamps on lampstands to shine the light as widely as possible, so that people may see their way around a dark room. Jesus then applies this image of a lamp and its light to the eye of the body. The eye is a lamp to the body, showing the body what is in front of it and around it. If one’s eye is diseased, there is distortion, and possibly near-blindness, and this affects the body’s perception of the world around it. In verse 35, Jesus warns his listeners to take care that the light in them is not darkness. At this point, He speaks of the soul, rather than the physical eye of the body. We must ensure that the light of the Lord Jesus Christ in our perception is not obscured by the darkness of our soul. Of course, the eternal light of the Word of God, the Son of God, can never be quenched, but always shines on in the darkness of the world (John 1:4-5). The reason why so many do not accept Jesus as Lord and Christ is that they have allowed their souls to become darkened by sin, so that they do not perceive who He is, and request a sign, or proof, that He is who He is. Christians today have a responsibility to see that their soul, and consequently their body and their whole life, is full of light, since the soul is the lamp of the body.
What are the implications of this message for Christians today? The soul, as the lamp of our lives, must be filled with the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Light of the world (John 8:12). This is in contrast to the thinking of many people today, who often allow the customs and pressures of contemporary culture, ideologies, or philosophies to influence their way of life. What many Christians often do, for example, when it comes to expressing an opinion on a political issue, is to argue either along Republican or Democratic lines, without considering the ethics of an issue from all sides, or attempting to find out what the Lord would have us believe as loyal members of His kingdom first. Not only must we think for ourselves, and not simply believe what others say or write, but we must pray and seek out the will of the Lord, and what is pleasing to Him. Instead of reflecting current opinion or popular views, our minds and thinking must be formed by Christ. For example, instead of adopting xenophobia as if it were a solution to the problem of keeping America safe, we must look first at what God’s attitude to aliens is, as recorded in the Bible. We read that God loves the aliens, orphans and widows, and that He gave Israel special laws to provide for their welfare (see Exodus 22:21-23; 23:9; Leviticus 19:9-10, 33-34; Deuteronomy 10:17-19; 24:17-22, for example). Since God loves the poor, the aliens, the orphans and the widows, Christians must, too. Xenophobic attitudes, therefore, are inadmissible for Christians, just as racism is, since the power of the Lord Jesus Christ’s death on the cross destroyed the division between Jew and Gentile, as well as all division on the basis of race or nationality (Ephesians 2:11-19).
The light of Christ that has shone into our souls, must shine in every part of our lives, so that we look at everyone and everything in a fundamentally new way, with the love of Christ. St. Paul expresses this insight in a different way in these words:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
(Romans 12:1-2, KJV)
The mind is renewed by the continual, prayerful reading, study and application of the Bible, which is God’s word. This fact in itself indicates that we must spend enough time reading and studying the Bible. Facebook may be a helpful tool to keep track of friends and their activities, but we must really ask ourselves how much of the Bible is in it, and whether it is right to spend so much time on Facebook. One can say the same of many other activities. Since the light of Christ is shining into our lives, even our use of time comes under his spotlight. Therefore we must submit all our use of time to the Lord, praying that He will guide us in the use of the time that we have available for recreation and leisure, just as we pray He will guide us in the use of our time at work.
One of the deepest levels at which the light of Christ shines into our lives is the level of our motivation to think, speak or act in the ways that we do. One question we might ask ourselves is, “How do I view people? My family? Friends? Strangers? Enemies?” Do I realize that because God created them all, they are precious to Him, and I should treat them all kindly, and try to live at peace with all people (Romans 12:18; Hebrews 12:14)? If we regard anyone as someone to be exploited, then we are not showing him the love of Christ, nor even loving that person as we love ourselves (Leviticus 19:18). Exploitation and oppression go hand in glove and result from greed of one kind or another.
All of us must pray for the grace not to think, speak or act in ways which express or somehow convey any hurt we may have suffered from others in the past. The best way to deal with such wounds of the past is to forgive all who have offended or wounded us, to repent of anger and resentment, and to love all as Christ would. All of us, also, must be willing to apologize to all whom we have wronged in any way, so that we may be forgiven, and healing come to all our relationships. Two great consequences of the death of our Lord on the cross were the forgiveness of sins and deliverance from the power of sin.
Another way in which the light of Christ illumines our lives is by renewing our attitude to created things. Nothing must become such a priority that the Lord God ceases to be the greatest priority in our lives. Nothing must be worshiped besides God (Exodus 20:3-5), nor should we be greedy for anything (Exodus 20:15 & 17), nor lust after anyone (Exodus 20:14 & 17; Leviticus 20:13).
What risk do Christians take by not being transformed by renewing their minds according to the word of God? They risk allowing themselves to be conformed to the world, acquiring the mindset of sinful, contemporary culture and the wickedness of the present age in which we live. In fact, many Christians belie their profession by showing ignorance of the Bible, the essential beliefs of the Christian faith, and even the history of the Church. This has led to the phenomenon of “Christians in name only”. In view of this, Christians are called by God to fortify themselves in their most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, and keeping themselves in the love of God (Jude 20, 21). This must be our reply to the degenerating culture of the West, in which Christianity is no longer dominant. Rod Dreher in his book The Benedict Option expounds this tendency in detail and proposes that Christians start small communities in which the Christian faith is properly taught, lived and modelled in a daily rhythm of prayer, work and study such as the Benedictine Rule proposed. The Very Rev. Michael Penfield, Vicar-General of our Convocation of the West, recommended in the last Convocation newsletter that we all read this book. After reading it, I commend it to you for its clarity in analyzing the theological and philosophical history that led to the ignorance of Christianity prevalent in the Church today and to the secularism of Western society today.