Author: Caroline Tiller
Have you ever taken a moment to wonder why romantic lighting is always so dim? Think about it. It’s all soft, warm light that glows, illuminating the other person. But if you pay a little more attention, you’ll realize that it casts just enough shadow to cover up their imperfections. Flip that idea. You know those awful fluorescent lights in school bathrooms or the grocery store? Those lights offer no cover for that zit on your chin or the circles underneath your eyes or the slightly crooked set of your jaw. You are on display, completely lit up for the world to see. In which setting are you more comfortable? In which setting would you rather snag a new profile pic—a dreamy restaurant or your doctor’s office?
Your heart and soul and spirit work the same way.
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:5-10 (ESV)
God is light. There is no darkness in him. He is clear, bright sunshine, not dim firelight. He is who He says He is: ineffably, unflinchingly brilliant, with no part of him hidden in shadow, and this is the way He lives. Where His light shines, life grows. Where His light shines, we grow. Fellowship between believers is modeled after the fellowship of the Trinity. Community within believers is meant to deeper and richer than any mere human connection because we are also joined with the Father, Son, and Spirit. What a sweet truth! But that depth of relationship can only exist when we are pursuing a life in the light that allows other life to grow.
So how do we cultivate a community that lives wholly in the light? My ESV Study Bible chimes in here, saying that “the symbolism of light as knowledge also implies that when Christians ‘walk in the light’ their lives will be known, and will not contain hidden sins, falsehoods, or deception.” Yes, my friends, this means living in that grocery store light. Nothing good nor evil can be hidden from the Lord. There is no shadow to hide the weird way your hair decided to part today, and there’s no shadow to hide the weird way your flesh craves sin. In His presence, our hearts are lit up by His unwavering light. In a similar way, true community means living authentically before your brothers and sisters in Christ. It means transparency and vulnerability—bringing the parts of you that are rough around the edges or just downright ugly out of the shadows—and that means pain. It hurts to confess that you have done wrong. It hurts to be held accountable. It hurts to cut out the sin your flesh craves. But it hurts because it matters, and like hydrogen peroxide: if it stings, it means it’s working.
In our attempt to lead raw, authentic lives within community, we must keep in mind that vulnerability alone isn’t enough; it must be met by love. 2 John 6 says: “Love means
doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.” I’ve observed that there is this tension within the capital-C Church between truth and love, a debate over what end of the spectrum Christians should lean towards. But John seems to be saying that to live in the truth is as simple as loving, and to love is as simple as living in the truth. If we meet each other in our vulnerability with honesty but not love, or with love but not honesty, it is hollow, hurtful, and destructive. But if we meet each other in our vulnerability in loving truth, no darkness can persist—only light and life.
It’s easier said than done, but the reward of fighting for these things is the promise of a supernaturally bonded community, and God doesn’t lie (Titus 1:2 and Hebrews 6:18). When you commune with the Lord together, when you allow yourself to be known and loved and commit to knowing and loving others in return, you’ll see the bad and the ugly, yes, but you’ll also see the good and the beautiful. You will catch a glimpse of Heaven on Earth. So I encourage you to find a group of people committed to the Lord and each other, crack open your chest, and allow His light to shine into the places kept in shadow. Hang tight when things get awkward or uncomfortable, speak life and truth over each other, love each other well, and pray at all times. Begin walking together in light. The darkness will flee before you.