Imagine with me for a moment that you’re waiting for an elevator. When the doors finally open, there’s one other person standing inside. You get in, press your floor number, and the doors close. As the elevator begins its ascent, you are suddenly struck with an awareness you can’t explain: that the other person in the elevator with you can read your thoughts. In fact, he or she can tell everything about you.
What would your initial reaction be?
I’m guessing it wouldn’t be, “Wow, how cool that they can read my thoughts!”
No, you would likely feel incredibly uncomfortable. Depending on what burdens you carry inside, you might even feel terrified.
Because of what a person like that could do with what they know.
Depending on what it is, they would then have the power to criticize, ridicule, embarrass, humiliate, or even ruin us. And who would want that?
Jesus was putting His finger on an aspect of this as he talked with Nicodemus, the religious leader who came to talk with Him late at night:
“And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light, so that his deeds will not be exposed.” (John 3:19b, 20)
But here’s the crazy thing: Despite what we feel about our lives and deeds being exposed to the light, what Jesus is saying isn’t intended to be scary. In fact, this is a passage about God’s love for the world, His sacrifice, and His rescue (see John 3:16-21) of those who will believe in Him. In brief, Jesus reveals that even though it can feel scary to come to the light, the light isn’t there to scare you or condemn you, God’s light is there to save you.
All that we fear the light will do—criticize, ridicule, embarrass, humiliate, or ruin—that’s not what light does; it’s what sin and evil do.
In the very next chapter of this Gospel, John writes a related account, but this conversation takes place in the bright light of the noonday sun between Jesus and a lone Samaritan woman with a sordid relational history—the kind of history people don’t usually like to talk about.
Early in the conversation, Jesus touches a nerve with his request that the woman go get her husband and bring him back. She tries to steer the conversation elsewhere with an evasive, “I have no husband.”
Any other well-meaning person would have caught her hint, sensed her discomfort, and changed the subject.
Jesus doesn’t mean to ease her momentary discomfort, He means to save her from her isolation, sin, and shame. And so, in no uncertain terms, Jesus names her disreputable past and her present sin. He calls it out plainly, clearly, matter-of-factly.
What’s happening? Jesus, the Light, is exposing her.
But to what? Not to shame or condemnation. Not even an ounce. Stripped bare of her defenses, she is exposed to the great Bridegroom’s love. How do we know? Because her fear no longer holds her. (See 1 John 4:18.)
This woman, who would not face the sideways looks or words of gossip from the other women who drew water in the cool of the morning, now runs into town telling everyone about the One “who told me all the things that I have done” (4:29). She hides no longer because she has experienced the Light to be a friend.
What about you? Where are there doors you’ve closed, determined never to open them to the light of others? What sins have you done or have been done to you that you do not want anyone to know about?
Make no mistake, the Light is dangerous. But it is dangerous like a good surgeon’s scalpel is dangerous to a cancer. The Light has come into the world for you. He is a friend. He means to free you and heal you. Will you let Him?
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Please leave a comment: What’s it been like for you to bring past or present sin and shame into the light of God and His people? What else does this post stir up for you?
Want to hear more this week? Check out the latest Becoming Whole podcast; Good God, Good Light.