Terrifying Light

Intrepidly, I tugged on the plastic handle. The door always sticks but it gives way with a sharp yank. The sound of rattling bottles and jars accompanies the basking glow radiating from within the white box. A chill creeps over my face as I peer inside–this mysterious cave holds many treasures.

Of course, retrieving such delectables from the fridge is where the true adventure lies. The complicated forces involved in keeping the whole thing stable present a unique trial. If I should pick that tub, I might knock over that pot and scatter it’s anonymous contents, causing it to cascade over everything beneath. Gingerly, I reached in and felt the bounty within. Closing my hand around it, I snatched my hand away. This time I escaped without episode.

Clutching my plastic tub of blueberries, I scurried away to enjoy the fruits of the great quest.

Prizing the lid from the box, I reached in to the tub and gathered a handful of berries. Usually I prefer them at room temperature but on this occasion I was pretty hungry. Casting the handful into my mouth I snapped my jaw shut to start chewing.

Mashed blueberries splatted against the floor.

Upon closing my teeth into the fruit which gave way a little too easily under the force of my jaw, my mouth was filled with the sickly, nauseating taste of rotten fruit. The fact they were refrigerated took away some of the foul taste. Some mercy. Looking into the box held in my hangs I noticed the grey fuzz on the blueberries. From the outside they looked so appetising. Underneath? Rotten.

Trying to not think about whether I’d eaten any of the ones with fungus growing on them, I threw the box away. And drank a glass of water. And brushed my teeth.

The taste was gone, but a thought emerged.

Am I rotten inside?

If someone dug deep enough, would they be disgusted?

After pondering this for a while and concluding that yes, of course if someone dug deep enough they would be repulsed, I contented myself with the knowledge that nobody would ever do that. I live in white, middle class suburbia. All the child-abuse, drug-taking, spouse-cheating, money-stealing, malice, gossip and abuse can be hidden securely behind a closed curtain and a whispered conversation. Certainly people have hidden some pretty awful things. I’m sure I can hide just as much. It’s almost a relief.

Sadly, that relief was short lived.

Today I picked up my Bible for the first time in a few weeks. Carrying on from where I left it, (Luke’s Gospel, chapter 8) I settled down to absolve my guilty conscience with some Bible time (Bible reading is pretty much the Evangelical’s version of confession and penance).

In this chapter Jesus tells a fairly famous story–at least one that Evangelicals are very familiar with. The parable of the seeds (Luke 8:4-8) is a story Jesus tells to those following him, commenting on the nature of those who respond to his message. As far as he is concerned, responding to Jesus is a little more complicated than ‘yes’ or ‘no’. He explains that there are those from whom the opportunity is snatched and so they don’t respond; there are those who are eager at first but do not last through the times of hardship; those whose faith is choked by the cares of the world and finally those who receive Jesus’ words and “bare fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).

Easy enough. Hear the Word of God, don’t sin too much and stay in church. Be nice to people. There: I’m a Christ-follower.

Unfortunately, Jesus seems to have a higher expectation.

Seemingly changing the subject, he speaks of a lamp. In a world before electricity, or even piped gas, light was a premium. So when Jesus talks of not hiding a lamp under a basket, it was because without that lamp there would literally be no light in the house. Perhaps one might light the lamp for guests or for security when a stranger came to the house.

In God’s house this light sits proudly on display. This bright light, from which nothing is hidden. This searching light which reveals the truth of a man’s heart. This beckoning light, inviting us.

Inviting us to what?

Ending this part of teaching our narrator, Luke, has Jesus’ relatives coming to seek him. They are kept away due to a crowd (Luke 8:19-21). Christ’s stinging words in this instance unlock perhaps the overall message of this teaching.

He says to all those present, who know how mother and relatives are waiting for him:

“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
(Luke 8:21 ESV)

One might empathise with his mother in this instance, and question the ethics of a man who would abandon his apparently widowed parent. But if perhaps you have been tracking with this story, from the parable of the seeds, and the lamp, perhaps you can see a far more demanding message still.

In his seed story I hear him say that the one who belongs to Christ will receive his commands and patiently let them grow, as a plant, in order for fruit to mature. In his story about the lamp I hear him describe the light of his words, and in that light all who walk into his presence will be judged. This builds on the first story in as much as one will ultimately know which fruit has grown in the light of Christ’s words (and not, as it is tempting to believe, how much supposed ‘good’ someone does in Christ’s name).

This is a crushing demand. I am weary at the thought. Christ, who loved sinners and died for his enemies? Christ, who healed the sick and cared for the oppressed? Christ, who stood up to the powers that be and declared their sins to the world? It’s impossible. He demands the impossible.

And as I sit here and write this, the taste of blueberries still bitter in my mouth, I am sick with the knowledge that my iniquity will not be left in the dark. No, in the light of his words I will be shown the hypocrite: Unfaithful and shallow.

And in all of this, I would forfeit that most intimate fellowship with Jesus:

To be his brother, his truest family.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.

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