Darkness and light in John's writings

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. [Jn 1:5-9 NRSV]

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” [Jn 8:12 NRSV]

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 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 cleanses us from all sin. [1 Jn 1:5-7 NRSV]

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him [or it] there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. [1 Jn 2:9-11 NRSV]

The past couple of mornings, I have been reflecting on ‘walking in the light’ and how difficult it can be. One of the things that has historically terrified me is that light would shine on the dark recesses of my heart and my deepest shame would be exposed, resulting in my being cut/cast off. (I think my theological upbringing did a good job of creating terror around the contents of my heart and my capacity for depravity.)

But here is John, exhorting his readers to come to the very source of light – Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Son of God. In this light is life, not condemnation. My darkness will not overcome the Light. Even the world’s combined darkness cannot overcome it…though both can certainly obscure it.

The invitation is there: let the Light in. Walk with the Light into the darkness. Shine the light into the corners. Behold what is there.

For the majority of my Christian life, I conflated darkness with evil. This is an easy thing to do, for the Bible can seem to be saying that darkness and light are not just opposed to one another, but are, further, at war with one another. Perhaps here, though, darkness itself is not evil, but a description of the unknown. If one is ‘in the dark’ on something, that just means they do not know or are confused.

John describes those who ‘walk in darkness’ as blind – they cannot see, they do not know. This is not evil in itself, but it could/will most likely lead to actions of hate. That is, they either do not engage/withdraw from others or they act with hostility towards them out of self-defense.

However, over the last few years I have learned (from letting the Light in…walking the the light) that not all that lives in the darkness is grotesque. I deeply suspected that the darkest recesses of my heart housed/hid the most shameful sin. I couldn’t tell you what it was, but I just knew it was there. I had been told so, so why go looking for it to confirm it? Confirmation would be too much to bear. But when I let in the Light, I also found beauty. That is, I found my humanity. Not that my humanity is always beautiful, but knowing the beauty helped me engage with (not hide, not cut off, not cower in terror of) the ugliness that is also there.

I love that this community is here to encourage each of us in our respective journeys with/in the Light. It will be challenging, but it will also be freeing. My prayer for the community for this next year is similar to John’s:

…that you too may have fellowship with us, [as] indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. [1 Jn 1:3]

Participation that creates transformation. :slight_smile:

Has anyone else ever experienced terror around being exposed by the light?


This reminded me of a few things that have caused me to think recently. Firstly, I’m currently going through a Bible Project Bible study course and I was struck the other day by the idea that “when we meditate on the Torah (law of God- Psalm 1) and delight in it, we become more human”. Without realising, I had figured that our humanity was not a good thing, and that it opposed becoming more Christ-like. This statement from Tim Mackie made me think again about God has designed us to be very human, but made in his likeness. His original design of our humanity was perfect and beautiful. So if we start to think, like you did, about how walking in the light shines in on the dark places, we should joyfully anticipate God bringing to light the lovely things, and dealing with the ugl y things, without fear.

Secondly, I was really impacted by one of @Carson ’s posts at New Yearwhich prompted us to consider how God has transformed us this year. I think I spend way too much time identifying my failings each day, and I was almost taken by surprise that God may have transformed me in a good way despite those other things. I think I expect the light to only reveal the darkness in me, and forget to look at the goodness it has revealed too. Which makes me think, I’m still in some darkness (blindness) to not have recognised this!

Thirdly, I found some correlation between this and something that @chris has shared in a couple of posts (I can’t remember which ones, sorry) about his own previous experience in focussing on ‘sin management’ and not enough on how he was already made to serve God. By shifting his focus onto ‘the light’ (Who God is and what He called us to do and be), it helped Chris step away from dark/blind thinking about the seemingly fruitless task of sin management. (I hope I have paraphrased Chris fairly here - this is at least how I took it - feel free to correct me!).

So coming back to what you’ve written, I think that ‘walking in the light’ is so much more complex than just a salvation statement, as I’ve always interpreted it. It’s about celebrating what God chooses to reveal in the deepest, darkest parts of our hearts. As we allow this, we may have the opportunity to deal with sin, but knowing it’s done in a very loving way, where God isn’t just ripping out the darkness roughly, but he’s also revealing His own image in us more and more.