The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.
John 1:5, NLT
Over the last few weeks, my heart has been burdened by the violence that is sadly becoming a new normal in our world. First, it was the shocking news of a family friend’s wife who was senselessly shot while driving home from work two weeks ago in Florida. She is thankfully alive but has a very difficult road of recovery ahead. Then it was the national news story of the Pittsburgh shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, actually taking the lives of eleven worshippers and wounding several others last Sabbath. The darkness of this world and of sin’s curse seems overwhelming at times, but I’m choosing to trust that the light of God’s presence and goodness can never be extinguished (Jn. 1:5). But how? How do followers of Jesus persist in making God’s light inextinguishable in the midst of growing darkness?
AS A WITNESS
With the last days of human history in view, Jesus warned His disciples of many “signs” that would not only indicate the nearness of His coming but also the desperate need for His return (Mt. 24:1-8). It’s in this context that Jesus gave a made a simple prediction that describes our day with startling accuracy: “the love of many will grow cold” (Mt. 24:12). The violence that casts a dark shadow over our world and even over our houses of worship does not come as a surprise to our Lord. For that I am thankful. But more than that, I am thankful that Jesus could foresee even then that the darkness could not extinguish the light. Notice the glimmer of hope that arrests the downward spiral of end-time signs:
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 24:14, NKJV
The darker the night, the brighter the light. Followers of Jesus don’t have to cower or clam up as these tensions mount. We are not to be silent by-standers who look at the tide of hurt and evil as if it cannot be stemmed. As deception, warfare, and disaster increase, the light of the gospel will be proclaimed “as a witness,” i.e. as a visible demonstration to all the world. In other words, the good news of who God is and how He saves will be preached not just in more religious rhetoric, but through lives that reveal God’s glory, a glory that can be “seen” and not just heard:
For your light has come!
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.
For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the Lord will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you.
Isaiah 60:1-2, NKJV
Somehow in the midst of growing lovelessness, we can courageously live lives that reveal the enduring, persevering, never-giving-up love and glory of God.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:21, NKJV
As with most of today’s news, the reports of the Tree of Life shooting have been difficult to read. But two stories I came across from the tragedy have revealed God’s inextinguishable light and love, a love that will not be overcome by evil but overcomes evil with good.
Story 1 is of the hospital staff of the Allegheny General Hospital where the synagogue shooting suspect arrived via ambulance after suffering several gunshot wounds himself. Though still raging with anti-Semetic remarks, the hospital staff took care of him as they would any other patient in need of medical attention. Might sound like just another day on the job for this hospital staff, except that several of the suspect’s first caregivers were Jewish — his nurse the son of a rabbi and the hospital president who came to check on him a member of the Tree of Life synagogue.
Story 2 is of a well-loved family practice physician who was one of the eleven killed in the shooting. Dr. Rabinowitz was in a separate Bible study room when he heard the gunfire. The doctor immediately ran — not away from the scene but to the aid of the wounded. Rushing to the sanctuary to help, Rabinowitz ran into the line of fire.
Though fallen, Rabinowitz revealed a love that overcomes evil with good. Though received by a hardened heart, the hospital staff revealed a love that overcomes evil with good. Even in the midst of hatred and violence, you and I don’t have to be overcome by evil. Whether in the public sphere or in the home circle, wherever darkness seems to be mounting, let’s lean in and let our light shine. Let us persist in giving, sacrificing, loving. The darkness cannot extinguish the light of God’s glory revealed in the lives of His people. Let’s cling to the promise and courageously live it out each day:
…But the Lord will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you.
Isaiah 60:2, NKJV