I have some experience going into total darkness and finding the switch, but I’ll only enter if I know where the switch is. Can a believer tell or show someone else where the switch is?
I think that’s the wrong question. God is the light of the world. There is no darkness in him, and he is not in darkness.
Where, then, does darkness come from? The simple answer is that darkness comes from Satan, and if people are looking for a switch, then the switch must be the light of God in a believer.
But I don’t particularly like the metaphor. Let me rephrase the question: how does an unbeliever find the light, and what role do believers have in the process?
The darkened room
I have an attached two-car garage and one car. I keep the car on the far side. I am not a particularly neat person. So there is a huge pile of I’m not exactly sure what between the door and the car. There is also a path to the car. At night, the darkness in the garage is near total.
I can turn on a light with a switch inside the house, but if I want to drive somewhere, I don’t want to leave the light on. I have a garage door opener. When it opens the garage door, it turns on a different light, which shuts itself off in a few minutes. I also have two little dogs, and I don’t want them to follow me into the garage.
So I go into the dark garage, shut the door, and push the button that opens the garage door. Light shines, and I can see the path to the car. Why would I be willing to face total darkness for even a few seconds if I didn’t know where the button is to open the door and turn on the light?
Why, then, would anyone suggest that God is like a light switch somewhere along the wall and that someone who doesn’t believe that there is any light should just feel along the wall until they find the switch?
Why is there darkness?
On the sixth day of creation, he first made a man, next created a garden for the man to live in and told him he could eat anything and everything except the fruit on one tree,
Only after all that did he create a woman. Why that order?
- So that the man would see and experience God’s bountiful provision
- To let him know that he was the crown of creation, but still subject to the will of the Creator
- To give the woman a chance to choose obedience or not without the experience of having walked with God as the garden grew
- To prepare the man and woman for the temptation he knew was coming—and which he couldn’t warn them about. By the way, God’s name for the man and woman together was Adam (Genesis 5:1)
Satan, the greatest of angelic beings, had already started a rebellion and been expelled from heaven. I believe that God created the earth and humanity to prove to Satan that he could make a being that would choose to love him with their free will.
Adam blew Plan A, which was for the man and woman to resist the devil’s temptation. Instead, they bought his lies and decided to obey his command instead of God’s. God’s Plan B is the plan of redemption by which he himself would become human, resist Satan’s temptation, die, rise again from death, and give everyone the chance to freely believe it and choose to obey him instead of Satan.
In the mean time, according to Scripture, humanity had pledged allegiance to a liar whose only intent is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 8:44; 10:10). Jesus calls him the ruler of this world (John 12:31). Paul calls him the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Here is some of what the Bible says about light and darkness
- As god of this world, Satan has blinded people so that they won’t see the light (2 Corinthians 4:4)
- Satan has the assistance of principalities, powers, and world rulers of darkness (Ephesians 6:12)
- God’s eternal power and deity are clearly visible in creation. Everyone knows God, but many choose not to honor or acknowledge him. That is why their thinking becomes futile and their minds become darkened (Romans 1:20-21)
- Men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds are evil. People who love evil won’t come to light because they don’t want their evilness exposed (John 3:19-20)
- Even believers who want to walk in light and think they are in light remain in darkness if they don’t show love to others (1 John 2:9).
How to be light
Jesus is the light of the world, but he says to his followers, “You are the light of the world.” The church is like a city on a hill. It can’t be hidden. And we are commanded to let our light shine in the world (Matthew 5:14-16).
But as that verse from 1 John demonstrates, we don’t always shine our light. Christians can still act like the devil. It appalls me to see letters from Christians to newspapers without a vestige of love. Are they that judgmental when they are trying to witness to unbelievers in person?
I grew up in what I can only describe as an unbelieving church and continued to be active in it through college. I couldn’t tell much difference between the people (including students) I knew through the church and other people I knew who didn’t claim to be Christian at all.
At least three students tried to persuade me that the Bible is true, that God is a person, that Jesus is God in human flesh, and that his death and resurrection not only actually happened, but that I could benefit from that truth simply by believing it. I blew them off.
Attempts to persuade can too easily get into arguments, with each side defending a viewpoint. They generate more heat than light. The students I blew off must have said something that stuck with me, because I spent my first year in graduate school not going to church, but reading and studying the Bible every Sunday in my room.
At the end of that year, I had accumulated a lot of questions that I realized I couldn’t answer without going back to church. I found a church and continued to spout the unbelief I had learned at home. Reading C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity had a profound influence on my thinking, but more important, the people in that church patiently loved me into the kingdom.
If you want to bring unbelievers to the light, you can’t show them the light switch. You have to show them the light by being the light. And that doesn’t come automatically when you learn to walk in light yourself. You have to learn to love others as Christ loves you. That’s the only way to become light.