How do you think about God? What image comes to mind?
Maybe you think of God as some cosmic grandfather, an elderly white man with a long, flowing beard reminiscent of Santa Claus.
Maybe God is some kind of universal policeman always on the lookout for people to mess up so he can zap them with lightning.
Maybe nothing in particular comes to mind.
John makes an interesting illustration for God in 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.
We’re probably all familiar with what John says later in the letter: God is love. But here at the beginning, John says that God is light.
One of John’s favorite binaries is light and darkness. It’s all throughout his gospel, his letters, and Revelation. The opening paragraph of John’s gospel concludes this way:
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
I think Light can be a powerful metaphor in understanding God’s nature and character. Remember, John is writing in the pre-scientific era. The properties of light that we know today weren’t even part of John’s thought process. But the more we understand about light, the more we can come to understand about God.
LIGHT IS BRIGHT
Ok, let’s start out with the simplest one. It’s bright. Light illuminates everything around it. And you don’t even need very much light to see in the darkness. We’ve probably all be on one of those cave tours where the guide turns off all the lights and you can’t see your hand in front of your face. You lose all sense of direction, your surroundings quickly become unknowable, and even time begins to feel different the longer you’re in that sort of darkness. But then a simple pen light or match is lit, and the whole cavern becomes visible once more.
Darkness cannot snuff out the light. It only works one way.
Taking it another step, though, think about what it’s like in the morning. Your room is dark. You’ve just started waking up. Then someone turns on the lights full blast. How do you react? It’s miserable. It hurts. You want to throw the blankets over your head and retreat to the comfort of the darkness again. We get used to the darkness. The darkness is comfortable. But then the lights come on.
This is a great analogy for God’s holiness. Whenever God appears in his glory to people throughout the Bible, they cannot look directly at him. “No one can see me and live,” God says. We cannot enter God’s presence because we are sinful. We’ve gotten used to the darkness. It’s painful to enter the light of God’s holiness. But just like with Isaiah and Moses and Jacob and Peter and Paul – God’s holiness cleanses our sin and purifies us so that we are actually able to stand in his presence. It may take time. It may hurt. But we can adjust to the light.
(Another related aspect of light is it’s cleansing abilities. You can disinfect items by placing them in direct UV light. You can also bleach stains out of cloth by laying it out in direct sunlight. Etc. Etc.)
LIGHT IS MADE OF DIFFERENT “COLORS”
We know these colors are actually different wave lengths. The human eye can only perceive a small portion of the entire light spectrum. What looks like white light to us is actually a combination of all the colors of the visible spectrum. That’s kind of how it is with the Triune God who is Three in One.
Our eyes cannot see most wavelengths of light. We cannot see radio wave, infrared radiation, or ultraviolet rays. But just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there. We can see the effects of those wavelengths – like if you’ve ever listened to the radio or gotten sunburned. So it is with God. Just because we can’t always see God doesn’t mean he’s not there, acting, moving, impacting the world around us.
LIGHT IS THE UNIVERSAL CONSTANT
The “C” in Einstein’s equation (e = MC^2) is the speed of light, which is constant (in a vacuum). In space light travels at ~186,000 miles per second (or ~300,000 meters per second). Einstein proved that the speed of light is constant no matter what. If you are moving directionally toward the light source, that light is coming at you at 186,000 miles/second. If you are moving away from the light source, the light is still coming at you at 186,000 miles/second. The laws of physics that govern the universe function the way they do because of the cosmic constant. Nothing that has mass can travel at the speed of light, and as far as we know nothing is able to travel faster than the speed of light.
So it is with God. Nothing is greater than God. Nothing can outrun God. God is constant in the universe. There is nowhere you can go where God is not.
LIGHT HELPS US SEE
We’ll end with a simple one, too. You can probably move around your room and your house pretty well in the dark. You know approximately where everything is so you don’t stub your toe on the way to the bathroom at night. But what happens when the furniture gets rearranged?
We live in a constantly changing world. Society is evolving at a breakneck pace. We are becoming more diverse and more globalized – which can definitely be a good thing. But it’s like the furniture keeps getting moved and we’re stumbling around in the dark simply trying to find our way without any point of reference or system of understanding the world.
I love this quote from CS Lewis, the famous Christian author who was an atheist-turned Christian apologist. He never tried to scientifically prove the existence of God or the accuracy of the Bible. To Lewis, this is what it all comes down to:
Faith in Christ is the light that allows us to navigate through the darkness of this world. God is the light in which we can walk without stumbling. When we walk in the light together we can see the things of this world for what they are. We can more easily avoid the pitfalls and obstacles while reaching our goal – bringing heaven here on earth, reflecting God’s light for all the world to see.