August 29, 1993
“I was too scared to go down the dark one...” said 12-year old Angie, after a visit to West Edmonton Mall’s Water park. She loved the water slides and wasn’t intimidated by their height nor steepness, but the darkest tunnel slide was too dark. No matter how much her brothers coaxed her, she refused to try it.
James and Joey couldn’t understand her fears. “There is nothing to be afraid of,” they insisted. Many parents say the same thing when their children want lights on and doors left open. They know childish monsters exist only in a child’s imagination. But children are not much different than adults. We tend to fear whatever darkness might conceal, not darkness itself. If there are enemies or dangers, we prefer both to be visible, out in the light.
Several hundred years before Christ, Plato remarked, “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
Whatever Plato meant, I can think of several possible applications. One of them is the not-so-funny fear of looking at one’s self in the mirror in full sunlight, a phobia that materializes some time after a person’s thirtieth birthday.
Perhaps a more crucial fear is that of examining our prejudices. Sometimes we prefer hiding them because we may discover we were wrong. It is difficult to either live with error or change our minds, so we would rather not bring those biases to light.
Light and dark are symbolized somewhat differently in the Old Testament. Darkness is associated with a life of sin and ignorance; light with righteousness and goodness. Jesus added even more dimension to these symbols when He declared, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.”
Jesus Himself is Goodness and Righteousness, true Light that came into the world to expose and set us free from all the hidden elements of sin’s darkness. He shed light on the human idea that sin is something we do by saying it goes much deeper; it is an attitude of the heart. Such hidden sin must be exposed, never covered by a show of “good” deeds.
Jesus’ explanation of sin was not popular then or now. The religious leaders of His day made a show of piety and were what we might call “good, God-fearing people.” Jesus said they were hypocrites because their deeds were motivated by hearts that were not right.
In this context, Jesus uncovered a third fear related to light and darkness. He said, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:19).
Notice, He was not talking about those who are afraid of what darkness hides, but people who love the dark itself, a far more serious problem. He gave this reason: “Men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (vs.20)
He is referring to people whose attitude toward sin is contrary to Scripture’s teaching. The Bible says those who cover their sin will not prosper. Sin is our worst enemy, the very cause of eternal death. Besides, since light represents for more than goodness or spiritual enlightenment but Jesus Himself, then everyone who does evil hates Jesus, and will not come to Him fearing He will expose their evil deeds.
That means sliding further into darkness regarding the nature of sin and darkness and disregarding the only One who can overcome it.