Photo from flickr by darkday (CC BY 2.0).

Following Jesus in the darkness

The idea of removing oneself from the darkness and pain of the world was never a life Jesus entertained. Instead, over and over again in the Gospel accounts we see a Jesus who intentionally immersed himself within the darkness of the world around him and sought to bring the light of God’s love into the places where the light was needed the most.

Unfortunately, the Church has often been fed a message of separation from the world. Rather than model ourselves after our Teacher who lived and served within the mess of everyday life, we often try our best to avoid the mess at all costs---all in the name of personal holiness.

However, rather than allow the message of separation to form our response, we should instead allow the life and message of Jesus to re-define what holiness within the world actually looks like.

Let’s face it, we live in the world---not up to a point, but completely and without reservation. Trying to escape the world for the sake of maintaining personal holiness is a concept that is nowhere to be found in the New Testament witness. Jesus' command to “Go into all the world” means exactly what it says. Go, live, and inhabit are all words that entail being with and for others, not away from them.

The message of removal and disembodiment is something the Church has often advocated for since its inception. However, we can only impact the world in positive and restorative ways by actually living within it, with the people who Jesus came to heal and restore, not by removing ourselves from it.

Learning to walk in the darkness with Jesus

I know how important it is to surround ourselves with positive people; people who are generally optimistic, hopeful, energized and who strive for excellence. Being with people who consistently demonstrate these characteristics inspires us to want to emulate them, creates a passion to move forward in life, and to make a positive difference in the world.

I also know that people who live on the other end of the spectrum have a tendency to pull us down. They seem to have a natural propensity to complain, be negative and are normally highly pessimistic. These people are taxing, have a way of draining our energy, while making us feel like the world is about to crumble beneath us.

I get it when people tell us to avoid the negative people of the world. I understand the rationale behind it. No one enjoys being around negative people. No one.

However, as followers of Jesus, how will we ever expect to impact the darkness with light when we consistently seek to avoid the dark at all costs? How will we expect to bring hope when we remove ourselves from the very arena where hope is needed the most?

For many Christians, it seems that practitioners who preach a message of positive-thinking and self-help formulas have successfully trumped the controlling message of Jesus---a message that calls us to live amongst the darkness, negativity, and pessimism of the world and infuse it with light, love and hope.

Our calling as Jesus-followers, however, instructs us to imitate the One who himself lived in the midst of the dark, downtrodden and disenfranchised and who called His followers to go and do likewise.”

Maybe we need to rearrange and reimagine our controlling message---a message centered in the person and life of Jesus. Maybe we need to rearrange our propensities that cause us to avoid the negativity around us---a negativity that cries out for us to release God’s light. Maybe we need to embrace a posture of hope that allows God to move us towards the hopelessness of our world with his love.

There seems to be a deep contradiction here between the avoidance message we’ve come to accept and the embracing message of Jesus.

However, what we need is to center and re-center our lives and message in the life and message of Jesus. We need to walk into the darkness with the power of God’s light and allow the Spirit of life to flow through us to bring hope into the lives of those who need it the most.

Learning to live in the darkness with Jesus

Maybe we need to embrace the darkness. After all, negative people need a positive God. And, they will only meet this God when they meet Him in and through His people.

How else do we expect to impact our neighborhoods, towns, cities and world?

As Henri Nouwen once wrote, “The Christian life should not remove us from the world but lead us deeper into it.”

Let’s stop avoiding the darkness and those who live within it, learn to walk and live in the darkness with Jesus, and let God do what God does best---speak order into chaos, light into darkness, and life into death.

There will always be light at the end of every dark tunnel.

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About the author


ChristianWeek Columnist

Jeff is a columnist with ChristianWeek, a public speaker, blogger, and award-winning published writer of articles and book reviews in a variety of faith-based publications. He also blogs at jeffkclarke.com