The very first thing any being said in the Bible is, “Let there be light.” This is the first word that is necessary when sorting out the chaos that is the universe. That scale is still beyond us. The light began the process of separating and sorting that makes the rest of creation possible.
What is true from the beginning is still true today in nearly any context one can imagine. If one wants to clean a room, light is necessary. If one wants to build something, light is necessary. If one wants to correct a wrong or study a subject more deeply, we might say we need to “shed light” on it. Seeing clearly what could not be seen before is necessary for growth.
There is still more needed than light. Light was only the first act in the first Biblical creation story. What followed was the rest of creation — the earth, moon, stars, flora, fauna, and human beings. Light makes everything else possible. It makes no sense to focus on the darkness once the light has arrived.
What does make sense is to clean up the chaos that is exposed by the light. It makes sense to work through the pain and difficulty of personal or national sin exposed by the light. It also is understandable that those who prefer things remain in the dark become agitated, or worse, when the light exposes them or the system that benefits them. This is especially challenging when those very supporters of darkness claim to be lights themselves.
I have also found myself, when attempting to clean up a mess, passing judgment on those who made the mess in the first place. It is worth remembering that, at least at my house, what is now a mess was at one time either a necessity or the result of bad decisions. Sometimes it is obvious which is which, but sometimes it is not. It does little good to dwell on why something got to be a certain way so much that it never gets cleaned up. If all I did was blame and accuse and demand that the ones who made the mess clean it up, it would not happen.
Talking about light, thinking about light, and observing the effects of light are useless without action. The anonymous sixteenth century spiritual classic, Theologia Germanica says, “Let no one suppose that we may attain to this true light and perfect knowledge, or life of Christ, by much questioning, or by hearsay, or by reading and study, nor yet by high skill and great learning. . . So long as a man takes account of anything which is this or that, whether it be himself, or any other creature; or does anything, or develops a purpose, for the sake of his own likings or desires, or opinions, or ends, does not come to the life of Christ. But so long as a man holds on to the elements and fragments of this world (and above all to himself) and makes great account of them, he is deceived and blinded, and perceives what is good no further than as it is most convenient and pleasant to himself and profitable to his own ends. These he holds to be the highest good and loveth above all. He never comes to the truth.” (Theologia Germanica, 19)
There are many reasons why shedding light does not guarantee order being brought from chaos. It might be that not everyone considers what is seen to be necessary to clean up. It might be that some are so mired in the chaos they have no energy, ability, or skill set to even begin. This is not judgment, it is fact. Anyone who has asked a child to clean a kitchen without supervision and hands-on help understands this. Neither is it condescending. I have had several times in my life when I could see something clearly wrong but was completely out of my depth to fix it. I needed help.
Jesus told a group of “common people” (I do not believe there is such a thing), “You are the light of the world.” You. . . not someone else. True light gets a response. Light will always overcome darkness. Just the presence of light exposes those things that we would like to keep hidden. True light demands action.
Being light is not a philosophical exercise, it is the life of those who desire to create order from chaos.