Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
March 9, 2014
Plain truth about darkness and light
I have not had a fist fight in seventy years. But when I was a boy I had a lot of fist fights. Harold and I fought a lot, mostly during recess at school. Our schoolmates would gather round and cheer us on. They wanted to see blood.
We fought with our bare fists so our knuckles got skinned up. We made no body punches; our target was the other’s face. The fight was over once one of us got a bloody nose.
One of my last fist fights was the shortest of all. Harold and I had insulted each other and quickly squared off to fight. Before I could land a blow he hit me between the eyes and the lights went out. I woke up flat of my back staring into the faces of laughing friends.
There is a simple Bible lesson in such childish behavior. Hate causes the lights to go out in our relationships. Choosing to hate is like plunging into darkness. Hate robs us of the light to see where we are going. In one of his letters John says that whoever hates walks in darkness.
John reminds us that we have a choice. We can love or we can hate. When we love we walk in, and live in, the light. When we hate others, we stumble in the darkness. We can have light only if we choose to love. That is plain biblical truth.
Love is not a great achievement possible only to great saints. Love is something ordinary people can practice daily – with the help of the Lord. That is because love is the primary fruit of the Spirit operating in our hearts. Love is not something we “must do” in order to obey Christ’s commandment to love one another. It is something He does in us when we surrender to his will for our lives.
When we married my wife did not know how to make dinner rolls. Her cooking skills were limited. Across the street lived a dear older woman who took Dean under her wing and gently taught her how to make potato rolls. Mary did not talk down to my wife or make her feel embarrassed that she did not know how to cook. She loved Dean and praised her for catching on so fast.
Sixty years later my wife remembers with the loving kindness of our neighbor. She still has the recipe for potato rolls that Mary gave her. Mary was an ordinary woman whose love made a difference to a struggling young wife. Today Dean walks in the light of Mary’s love.
Jim was a brilliant student. We became fast friends during my first year in seminary. He was five years older and took an interest in me, inviting me to study with him. I could not help him but he was an enormous help to me.
By the end of the first semester my grades were much higher because of the many hours spent studying with Jim. Neither of us would have called this “love” but I know differently now. I was a better student because Jim invested time in me. His quite ordinary love made a difference in my life. .
John warns us not to love the world or the things in the world. Yet all of us are tempted to want the things that others have. We want to keep up with the Joneses. This desire for things prevents us from being content with a simple life.
Few things motivate us to live more simply than the examples of ordinary people who love God and live quietly content with little of this world’s goods. I think of Frank and Louise. They were hard-working folks who lived in a simple cottage that was always open to us. When friends and neighbors faced trouble, Frank and Louise were the first to offer help. The example of their love for others still shines like a star in my sky. Such love is light to live by.
Robert Frost once wrote about a certain man, “He was a light – to no one but himself.” His was a selfish light that brightened the path of no one but himself. Caring for others can cause someone to say, “You light up my life!” People can walk in such light. Hate shuts out the light, makes us blind, and causes us to stumble in the darkness.
We do have a choice. We can hate and walk in darkness or we can love and walk in light. In the end, hate loses. Love wins. So choosing to love puts us on the winning team – in this world and the next. + + +