I wandered so aimless, my life filled with sin. I wouldn’t let my dear Saviour in. Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night. Praise the Lord, I saw the light!
That wonderfully twangy song stanza was written in the mid-20th century by Hank Williams. And while I’m sure there are autobiographical elements to this famous ditty, when I hear it, I can’t help thinking of the Apostle Paul.
Hank’s lyric harkens back to the famous scene in Acts 9:1-19, where Paul (called Saul at the time) meets Jesus – visually manifested only as ‘a light from heaven’ – on the Road to Damascus, and the experience transforms him from the principal persecutor of The Way to its primary promoter.
And after experiencing the Light of the World first-hand, it’s understandable that Paul uses The (Other) L-Word to refer to God and godliness many times in his ministry and his letters. Here’s a small sample of light-loaded verses worth reading and reflecting on:
- Acts 13: 46-47: Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
Romans 13: 12: The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
- 2 Corinthians 6:14: Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
- 2 Corinthians 11:12-15: And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
Ephesians 5:8: For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.
- Ephesians 5:13: But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.
Other apostles get in on this action as well.
- In James 1:17, the brother of Jesus reminds us that ‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.’ (Sounds like James was a fan of Jesus Culture, doesn’t it?
And the Apostle Peter may not have been as prolific an epistleer as Paul, but when he wrote letters, they were pretty illuminating. Case in point: 1 Peter 2:9: ‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.’
- If you doubt that there’s more where that came from, consider 2 Peter 1:19: ‘We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.’
Not one to be outdone, though, is the Apostle John.
You’d think these two monumental contributions to the Christian lexicon would be enough, but John was just getting started. He also used his linguistic gifts to shine some light on the concept of the Light of the World, and what it’s supposed to look like to be a reflector of that light on earth:
- 1 John 1:5: This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (Wait a second. God is light?? Maybe I was a bit hasty to say otherwise in Part 1.)
- 1 John 1:7: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
- 1 John 2:8-10: Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.
It feels a little like the four apostles I’ve quoted in this post are holding our feet to the fire, but I think that analogy is a little harsh. In these passages, I hear encouragement, and yet I’m convicted. I hear challenge, and yet I’m inspired. And I hear rebukes, and yet I’m comforted. So maybe instead of holding our feet to the fire, it’s more accurate to say they’re holding our hearts to the light.
I started this post by quoting a song, and it seems appropriate to close it similarly. But instead of Hank Williams, let’s turn to contemporary worship leader Tim Hughes:
Light of the world, you stepped down into darkness … opened my eyes, let me see…
Peace be with you.