Behind the Darkness

It’s so very easy to point out these days. There are lots of dark things. In fact, this world has become very dark in so many ways. It is also true that one of the jobs a priest has is point these things out so that the faithful do not fall into them and so that they know the reality that is around them. We are all quite inclined to jump into things without reflection only to find that we have walked into a morass of problems. Yet, it seems to me that there is a lot of warning these days—which, as I said, is necessary, and there is very little of what I also think is very important.

We, those of who write and teach, can often be like the person visiting at the hospital. The patient is in very serious condition, even grave condition. Everyone knows it. The doctors and nurses are working quietly and calmly to administer to the poor person. The visitor comes and can easily be distracted by all of the monitors, iv lines, breathing tubes, beeps and dings. He could fail to see the one essential thing: that there is still a person under all of those medical appliances. If the visitor fails to see that singular truth, then he will fail to do the very thing he had in mind originally.

As Christians, we are concerned less about the darkness of this world—which is and has always been great, and far more about the person who is caught in it. Our purpose is not to fret and bewail the world; it is dying and slow agonizing death just as our Lord said it would. No, our job is to focus on the person whom Christ loves. And that means on all humanity is our focus: the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. There characterization is of little concern to us. If we can call them “good, bad, beautiful or ugly” doesn’t really matter. The essential thing is that each person we meet, regardless of how attractive they are, is created in the image of God, and that God loves them.

We are walking through a casualty field. There are thousands around us who have been hurt and many gravely so. I can picture the scene as an open field in WWI with the wounded lying about waiting on stretchers for help. A vast sea of brokenness. Even those who give care are broken because no human being is meant to constantly see the nightmarish sights they said every waking minute. But once in a while, someone is able to break out of the gray fog and see with some clarity that these are persons who need love. All of them. They need love as much as they need medical attention.

The world we live in right now needs medical attention. It is being turned upside down with wickedness being called good. (Remember that wickedness means to be twisted out of shape, like wicker furniture. It is not to say that there is nothing of value in the wicked thing, but that it needs to be straightened out.) The political world we have causes a great number of us to fret and worry—it does me because I see it institutionalizing, establishing, or allowing wickedness to have it’s own way. But that is not our particular charge as Christians. We are not given in the Scriptures a political guide book. We are not a political party.

We are called out of this world by Christ himself to live as he commands and to transfigure our lives into a light which is like unto his on Mount Tabor in his transfiguration. This requires us to follow exactly what he teaches and commands. Our first work is to participate with God in healing our own souls. It is his work, but we must engage in that work with him. As St. Paul said, we must work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).

And yet, salvation is not just about me. It is about the entire world. It is not done alone, it is done within the Church. We are saved as members of the Body of Christ. Woe to those who believe they can do it all alone, just Jesus, their Bible and themselves. We are united to the entire Body, as members, and cannot be safe or saved without it. This corporate nature of salvation is so very often missed by those in the evangelical world. The nature of a covenant is corporate, not individual. This was true in the Old Testament, the Old Covenant, and it is true in the New Covenant. One of the primary differences between the two covenants is that the first was one God and his people Israel as a corporate people, and the second, the New Israel which supplants the Old, is a covenant in which the entire people is made a member of the Body of Christ our God.

I can not look at a fellow Christian as one who is simply an object of medical appliances. A fellow Christian is a partaker of Christ himself, he bears Christ’s life and is a living image of my God. I must never fail to see this. We must never fail to see it.

This essential fact, should inform our words and thoughts. While we could point out the darkness of the world, and we must do so, we cannot lose the vision that each person either bears Christ in a powerful way as his icon, or has the potential to bear that icon. Those with whom we disagree vehemently, have either twisted that image in themselves (if they are Christians), or they have the potential to bear it.

This should provide us with an intuition of the necessity of loving others. I say intuition because we know we are supposed to do so, even to love our enemies, but why and how are struggles for us. I have not given here an analytical discourse about the subject, but rather I have tried to paint a direction instead. We must intuit these things because it must come from a combination of our mind and hearts. Sometimes an analytical argument is not the best argument.

Go out into this world and try to see beyond its darkness. Try to look behind the present wickedness and sin which are so prevalent and set up before our eyes. Look carefully and you will see persons. They come in all shapes and sizes. They are all wounded, just as we are all wounded. They bear the potential of being transfigured into radiant images of the Light of Christ, just as we do. They each have the potential of being brought into the divine Body of Christ and changed into Saints. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

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