What words do you associate with darkness?Fear? Night? Terror? Danger? Blindness? Directionless? Hopeless?
What words would you associate with light?
Day? Truth? Hope? Safety? Sight? Comfort?
So, if you had a choice between living in the light or living in the darkness, which one would you choose?
It works this way…let’s say one of your children stole something – either from a friend, from you, or from a shop. They don’t want you to know, so they hide their stolen treasure. They want you left in the dark about their crime. Strangely, the only way to enjoy this forbidden treasure is to keep it hidden, and so they don’t really enjoy it anyway.
Or, a husband looks at pornography over the internet. While his wife may enjoy some of the extra attention he gives her through guilt or wanting to live out his sexual fantasies, for the sake of his marriage, he keeps his addiction a secret. The light of truth would destroy the trust in their marriage, so he keeps her, and his secret, in the dark.
Or, a friend has done something wrong. You don’t approve of their action and want to tell them, but you still value your friendship and you’re afraid if you approach them about it, you’ll lose your friendship. So you turn a blind eye to what they’ve done, hoping by not mentioning it you’re keeping it in the dark and it’ll go away all by itself.
Sometimes we use darkness to hide ourselves or the things we do. Sometimes we try to keep ourselves in the dark by refusing to face the truth. Sometimes we use darkness to protect our friends and loved ones from being hurt. So, for some strange reason, even though the light seems so much more appealing, too often the darkness becomes our friend, our comfort, our security, or even our saviour.
But darkness is the playground of the devil. He hates the light, so he uses the darkness to his advantage. He uses the darkness of unexposed sin, guilt and anger to gain a foothold in our lives. He also uses the darkness of our own insecurities and fears. He doesn’t so much bring his own darkness, but delights in using our own darkness against us. It’s like he stands in a pile of our own dark filth and flings it back in our face.
“Don’t say anything about what you’ve done – they won’t like you anymore. If you tell anyone about that, you’ll be sorry! You think you’re a Christian? Just look at what you say and do – if you were a real Christian, you wouldn’t do that! And what about those things you do when you think no-one’s looking? Yeah, and don’t forget your thoughts. You can act like a good person most of the time, but your thoughts betray your true sinful and detestable nature. You don’t want to repent or change your life, after all, just think of all the pleasures you’ll miss out on. Just keep everything hidden and no-one will get hurt…much.”
Or he uses our fears and insecurities: “You’re not attractive enough. You’re not very clever. You’re fat. You’re lazy. You’re weak. You’re not a nice person. You’re old. You’re insignificant. Nobody loves you. Nobody wants you. Nobody cares about you.” And so on.
Yet, if we bring the things of darkness, such as our sin, guilt, shame, and fears into the light, the devil can no longer use them against us. The power of forgiveness is always stronger than the deceptions of the devil, the world, and our sinful self. The light is always more powerful than the darkness. You know when you turn a light on, the darkness goes away. You can’t turn the darkness on hoping the light will go away!
As sin and guilt is exposed to the light of confession and absolution, it’s gone and dealt with. As your fears and shame is replaced by the undeserving love of Jesus, you live in peace. The darkness no longer clings to you. The devil can’t use what you’re not already carrying around on your heart. His weapons are your own doubts and fears, not his own. The more sin you expose to the light of the gospel, the less the devil has to use. This is why he doesn’t want you to live in the light. He wants you to live in the darkness so the darkness of sin and guilt and shame and fear will keep you trapped and crippled.
St Paul reminds you that you were once darkness, that is, you were once bearers of darkness, victims of darkness, and even instruments of darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Why should you choose to carry around the darkness of sin, guilt and fear, when you’re to now live in the light of Christ? Thinking of our definitions of darkness and light, you chose light as your preference. Living in the light and living in the darkness are incompatible. How can you live in the light of God’s grace, mercy and love, and yet still want to cover things up?
In our own Christian walk with Jesus, we can’t live in the light and darkness at the same time. Once we’ve tasted and seen the goodness of the Lord, once we’ve received the grace of God, once we’ve had our joy and peace restored through forgiveness, once our burdens of guilt and shame have been taken off our backs and washed away by the blood of Jesus, why would we want to keep anything hidden any longer? Why would we find greater comfort by living in darkness, when we know the peace and joy and hope we receive by exposing our sin and guilt to the light of God? Why would we want to continue carrying a burden when we know Jesus wants to take it from us?
You may have heard the general forgiveness of sins every Sunday of your life, but still struggle with specific things you’ve done in the past, things you’re not proud of. Private confession to a pastor may be what you need. Hearing those personal words of forgiveness for sins that have bothered you for a long time can bring peace and lightness to your heart again.
As mentioned before, the purpose of the Church is to forgive sins. Therefore, we’re to live in the light of Christ by exposing and forgiving sins.
We’re to expose our own sins and receive forgiveness, but this may also mean gently exposing other people’s darkness. This isn’t easy; at least, the gentle part isn’t easy. While we’re usually pretty good at letting everyone else know they’ve done the wrong thing, we’re not so good in doing it gently so they will admit their sin. Then, if they were to admit their sin, we’re usually slow at pronouncing forgiveness.
If you were to point out someone else’s sin or guilt, it shouldn’t be in order to punish them or put them down. If you were to expose someone’s darkness, it should be because you want to bring them into the light. You expose their sin in order to forgive them. So, if you expose their sin in order to make them suffer, you’re only doing the work of the devil. But, if you expose sins in order to forgive them and restore them to peace and hope and joy and life, then you’re doing the work of God.
You can’t clean up your own act. You can’t get rid of your own shadows, or your own darkness. Therefore, rather than being afraid of revealing your darkness and exposing what you want to cover up, you should welcome God’s pure light so that your shadows are taken away.
You shouldn’t be scared to expose what you want to hide because Jesus knows it already. Jesus knows you’ve done wrong, but instead of staying away from you, he came close to you in order to take away all your darkness.
Jesus came to uncover what you want to cover up. He doesn’t do this in order to embarrass you or punish you. He comes with his light and truth to take away your darkness of sin and guilt and fear and shame. He comes to take away your sins and give you his peace, his forgiveness and his light. Don’t hide your darkness, but offer it to Jesus. He’ll take it away.
Then as your darkness is taken away, you go out into the world as a changed person. You’re no longer burdened by your darkness. You no longer need to cover things up. You no longer do the things that belong to this darkened world.
Now of course, this means your light will stand out. You’ll be noticed. You’ll live differently to those around you. But you’d rather live as a child of the light than die in a world of darkness, wouldn’t you?
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard our hearts and minds in the light of Christ Jesus. Amen.