John’s Gospel begins, just like the book of Genesis, with: in the beginning. In Genesis, God speaks, and darkness is divided from the light (Gen. 1:4). Darkness and light have never successfully cohabitated. So it is no surprise that John noted in his Gospel that . . . the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend (or, overcome) it (John 1:5). There has been a battle between light and darkness since time began.
The battle only grew more fierce when Jesus, the Light, walked upon the earth. The darkness hated Jesus. It inspired religious leaders to oppose him. It blinded people to His message. And, it ultimately led His own friends to deny and betray Him. Darkness launched every missile in its devilish arsenal to overcome the Light.
Yet the Light continues to shine brightly.
It probably did not dawn on anyone sitting on the lawn the day Jesus delivered his epic Sermon on the Mount, that they had just been deployed into a cataclysmic battle. Jesus had simply said, “You are the light of the world . . .” (Matt. 5:14). At the time, that statement might have sounded encouraging, even heartwarming. But it was a battle cry.
Jesus knew full well what it was like to be light. He was under no delusions that darkness would welcome Him or forge a truce. It would be a fight to the end. Either the Light would prevail, or the darkness would. There was no room, or interest, in compromise. It was a battle to the death. And whether the disciples were ready or not, they were entering a war zone.
It should not surprise Christians today when they are attacked, criticized, mocked, or lampooned by the media. It should be just the opposite. It ought to baffle us when we are not in the midst of an evil cannonade.
Yet American Christians are continually expressing dismay when the world around them does not affirm or embrace them. Too many Christians have been allowed to enter the Church without being informed that they are entering a spiritual battlefield. Jesus told His disciples: A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you . . . (John 15:20).
I recently was in Nigeria. It currently has the sad distinction of having more Christian martyrs than any other country in the world. The Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, is determined to drive every Christian out of northern Nigeria and to create a strict, Muslim state. To that end, they have murdered hundreds of Christians. In January 2014, they murdered Christians on every Sunday in the month. In February, they killed hundreds of innocent people, including over forty children at a boarding school. These people, in the name of their religion, butchered children and defenseless villagers. Not surprisingly, northern Nigeria is the most backward, impoverished, and uneducated region of the country. The darkness is striving to keep people in bondage.
I must confess to you that I have had a heavy heart for the dear Christians in Nigeria who are suffering from such vicious brutality. There the battle between light and darkness is evident for everyone to see. We in the West certainly owe it to our Christian brothers and sisters to be praying for them as each week, they endanger their lives by attending church.
But we in America ought not to assume that we are safe from war. We may not have hooded thugs barging into our church auditoriums firing machine guns, but the combatants are just as earnest.
The media today is bombarding society with its ungodly messages. The politically correct police will use lies, slander, and bullying to ensure that their version of truth is loudly heralded, why opponents are smeared as bigoted, racist, and ignorant. Christian values are publicly mocked. Christ’s holy name is brazenly blasphemed. Pressures to conform to the standards of darkness are as relentless as they are intense.
I talked with a newlywed recently. He told me he was concerned about how he would raise his children in a world that is so opposed to Christian values and truth. I wasn’t sure how to answer him. It will be difficult. The darkness has made numerous inroads into society. It has built strongholds in many churches and denominations. It dominates much of the media. Darkness is as determined to snuff out the light today as it was in Jesus’ time.
This is not an easy time to be a Christian. It is even harder to live like one. But this is the age God has placed us. Every “light” needs to be accounted for. Every light must shine brightly. This is no time to have a dim or hidden light. We need to shine more brightly than we ever have before.
The darkness is coming for you. May you shine brightly.