Does anyone like being found out? I never have. It’s painful and humiliating, and if we have a very tenuous grip on something called self-esteem to begin with, the fear of losing what little bit we may yet possess keeps us lingering in darker places where exposure of the real persons we know ourselves to be is less likely. Today’s text is among the most familiar in the Bible, and has much to say to us—and through us.
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
We do not, in fact, like exposure of our less than admirable deeds—our sinful attachments to patterns and attitudes, our indulgences of lust, greed, sensate pleasure at the expense of thoughtful devotion to the true, the good, the beautiful. On the other hand, there is a great freedom that accompanies the exposure if—and only if—we allow the light to not only show us for what we are, but to transform us into something better, something unafraid with nothing to hide and everything to live for. The truth—about ourselves and about God’s actual desires for us and willingness to make those desires happen—indeed sets us free. Free to be the creatures God intended for planet earth. Still, dark corners yet unexposed linger.
Dark corners linger in our own lives, even as we are called to bear the message and passion of God to a deliberately dark world. As mentioned a few days ago, as God sent His Son, so the Son sends us. Sometimes we forget the manner in which the Son was sent. We mistake the Word made flesh for a few words on the sacred page. Jesus was sent out of the Father’s love, not His anger. Sometimes I have said, in only a partially facetious way, that God didn’t send His Son into the world to condemn the world because the followers of the Son would take care of that chore. And so we have, on multiple occasions, in loud and angry voices, in aggrieved tones of the unfairness over how mistreated we have been. Is this tendency itself but an indicator of a darkness yet moving and controlling from one of those corners not yet fully exposed to the brightness of Christ’s light?
To the extent that we demand fair treatment, defend out rights as believers, we just might be demonstrating that our identifying with Christ, who gave himself on our behalf and on behalf of the whole world, is not yet complete. Have we love unequal to the task of suffering for the sake of those yet in darkness? May we allow his light to penetrate more deeply as the time of Lent progresses and moves toward its full victory, one we will not sufficiently appreciate while darkness lingers. Guilty as charge, says the writer.