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How’s Your Night Vision?

One afternoon while I was playing a video game, I saw an item that stuck out to me: an in-game guidebook with the description, “A guiding light to those who seek knowledge; a blinding light to those who refuse it.” As Christians, we are called to be the “light of the world,” (Mt. 5:14) but light can hinder sight just as much as it reveals things. We should be seeking to guide, but at times, it will be unavoidable that we blind those who are not interested in coming into the light.

Why does Christ’s light so often blind, and few use it as the guide it was meant to be? If you have ever done overnight camping, you probably have some idea of night vision. Your eyes slowly adjust to the darkness, and after about 30 minutes, you can see pretty well. If someone turns on a flashlight, it seems so much brighter than usual, making everyone flinch, because your eyes are wide-open to the world around you and not expecting to see light. Similarly, Christ’s light blinds so many, because they have adjusted their eyes to see only darkness.

Jesus says in Matthew 13:13, “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” He then references Isaiah 6:9-10, saying in verse 15, “For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed.” Usually, when you have been in the dark for a while, you stay away from light and get annoyed with people who shine lights in your direction. There were many during the days Jesus was on earth, who were blinded by their own self-righteousness and didn’t want to be told they could be wrong, just as there are many today who believe they are right. Prov. 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

In 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 we can read more about light-blindness. “Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Jesus Christ, who is the image of God.” When you finally adjust to the darkness and gain night vision, you will literally close your eyes to any bright light, just as “those who are perishing” have blinded their minds to Jesus’ light.

Sometimes, though, you need the light to find something important, and that causes you lose your night vision while trying to find what you need. Many people turn to God in moments of panic when everything they have tried to do their own way hasn’t helped. When a sinner comes to Christ to cleanse his sins, he cannot return to worldly living, just as a camper who finds what he’s looking for when using a flashlight can’t see in the dark anymore once that light is turned off. It would make no sense to stumble around in a dark campsite knowing you could just turn on a light to see clearly where you’re going.

In 2 Peter chapter 1, there is instruction for those who want to live a Christian life. Verses 5 through 7 are very familiar (add to your knowledge, self-control, etc.) Then, 2 Peter 1:9 says, “For whoever lacks these qualities [the list in verses 5-7] is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” Likewise, 1 John 1:5-7 says, “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.”

Once you see Jesus’ light and begin walking the way He wants you to walk, you cannot reasonably go back to living in darkness. This change is seen in the life of Saul. When he was on the road to Damascus in Acts 9, he was struck blind by a light from heaven. He regained his sight after three days, and he was transformed from a ravager of the church to “Paul,” one of the most influential men of Christianity.

We need to shine our lights, no matter who we blind. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

If I shine a light to see what I’m doing while camping, others might stay stubborn for a bit doing everything in the dark, but eventually they will realize they can’t see, and they’ll get their own flashlight out. Similarly, if we shine our lights in the world, there are those we blind, but our blinding light will turn to a guiding light for those who accept it. Those who are in the dark need to come to the light, and those who are in the light need to stay there.