What’s it like to have Jesus “move into the neighborhood?” Eugene Peterson used the “neighborhood” analogy in John 1:14 in THE MESSAGE.
At first blush, who wouldn’t want to welcome a neighbor who is kind and considerate; who enjoys neighborhood gatherings and welcomes everyone?
Before you let your imagination take you too far it’s important to remember the neighborhood Jesus was moving into. He moved into a culture – a neighborhood if you will – of turmoil, greed and self-centeredness, deceptive religious leaders; a culture of prejudice, hate and division. Living in that type of culture bred a sense of darkness that showed up as hopelessness, fear, despair, etc.
No wonder the writer of the Gospel of John stated so clearly that when Jesus entered the world of darkness, he brought light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world…The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1)
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Jesus’ entry into the world can be viewed through two lenses: the kingdom of evil and the Kingdom of God. Jesus entered a neighborhood that for all intents and purposes was like an enemy-occupied war zone. With his very presence and authority Jesus dealt a fatal blow to those dark powers and offered a new way of living: living in the light.
Why this emphasis? Light is THE answer to darkness. It’s a clear, oft-repeated Kingdom declaration: Live as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8) Notice the premise: we live in a world of darkness and the way to overcome it, is to be a person of light. Where does your mind tend to focus…
more on fighting the darkness or more on living in the light?
To be in the light means we must open ourselves to it, embrace it and be engulfed in it. This is different than constantly struggling against the darkness. That’s why Jesus urged people to “change their mind.” After all, the Kingdom of God is here. He continues to call us to make choices every day and almost every hour that keep us walking in the light rather than moving away toward darkness.
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In fact, in his first message, known as The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus minces no words about why living in the light is essential for Kingdom people:
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
Walking in the light means that we live in and with the reality that light has overcome darkness, and we are light! What does this mean? We get to focus our minds on all the goodness and grace of the Kingdom of God. This allows us to see our culture – our neighborhood – as a place to bring light, just by our very presence and all the goodness that goes with it. We get to imitate Jesus and refuse to buy into any aspect of the power of darkness’ oppressive regime. We live in the cosmic conflict as light-bringers – loving enemies, extending forgiveness and dignifying people. We get to be positive people who hand over our fear and resentment to God. Our positive beliefs can renew us every day as we remain connected to the True Vine (John 15). The fruit of remaining will make us an unstoppable force that is enlivening and energizing for the world. We will be light. And light penetrates the darkness.
What would happen if you lived more of your day as someone who is light for the world?