Day by day I meditate on the goodness of God. We know that love is the fulfilling of the Law and that by revealing his triune being God revealed that He is Love. Yet the love of God, like the love of man, is terrifying if it is not the love of one who is good. Love detached from goodness is a destroying fire. I am not interested in love without goodness. Too many sins, not to mention crimes and misdemeanors, are committed for “love”. Therefore I’m convinced that one of the most important verses in the entire Bible is found at the beginning of the first letter of St. John.
“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” (1 John 1:5). If we didn’t get the message when we read his Gospel, the Apostle spells it out for us once again.
There are few days when I don’t reflect on this particular verse. Paraphrased, “This is the message we have heard from the Son of God and proclaim to you, that God is good and in him is no evil at all.” God is good and therefore we can trust Him with our lives and the lives of those we love. We can trust Him in everything because “He is light and there is no darkness in Him at all.” When Jesus our Lord says, “Follow me” we can accept his invitation in the knowledge that he will never lead us into evil for there is no evil in him. He will never ask us to perform an evil act for evil is contrary to his nature. He taught us to pray to the Father asking him to deliver us from evil.
Everyday I pray, as I am sure you do, The Lord’s Prayer. Every day I pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I pray that God’s will will be done in the knowledge that the living God who has named Himself “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” always wills good for me and for all because there is “No darkness in him.” In fact, this is what His love for me and for you is all about. His love is not a sentiment — that is an emotion. God’s love is His desire and will for my good and the good of all that He has made. And this message is a thread running through the entire Bible. “Taste and see that the Lord is good” says the psalmist (35). Again he prays to the Lord, “You are good and do good; teach me your statutes” (119).
At the Red Sea the Lord defeated the gods of Egypt and so manifested His power. He was also keeping the promise He had made to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob/Israel and their descendants thereby manifesting His fidelity — His ability to keep a promise. But of course, even a criminal can be powerful and keep a promise. At Mount Sinai, the Lord revealed his goodness by giving the Law. Thus Moses asked Israel, “What great nation is there, that has statutes and ordinances so just as all the law which is set before you this day” (Deuteronomy 4:8). The Exodus and the covenants of promise are nothing if the Lord God is not good. He manifested His moral being at Sinai and invited Israel to share in His goodness by observing His commandments. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Of course when St. John says “God” and when the Church says “God” and when I say “God” we are not talking about any or every claimant to deity. The God who created all that is, who gave the Law through Moses, and who spoke through the prophets, “Came down from heaven” in the person of Jesus His eternal Son. And through His Son the Lord God has named Himself “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” This is the Name into which we are all baptized. He alone is God and there is no other. He alone is the light in whom there is no darkness at all.
“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the Law of the Lord/They never do anything that is evil, but walk in his ways.” These are the first words of Psalm 119, the great meditation on the Law of the Lord. Later in the same Psalm we read, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, and a light for my path.” The Word of God made flesh is Jesus the definitive interpreter of the Law, the Law of which he himself is the author. He is the “light” for our path that illumines our way for he is the Way. He is The Way to “The Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:18).
Idols abound today as always but they have no light or life to give only darkness and death. Israel found this out the way people do in every time and place.
Mingled with the nations, and learned to act as they did. They also served their idols, and these became a snare to entrap them. They even offered their sons and daughters in sacrifice to demons. They poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they offered to the idols of Canaan. The land was polluted with blood.
Having neither life nor light to give, idols demand human sacrifice then, now, and always. Today the suicide bomber appears everywhere in the service of his deity. The cult of the idol is always a cult of death. Let those who have ears to hear, hear.
We must listen carefully to our Lord and his Apostles again, and again, and again. St. Paul tells us that “An idol has no real existence,” and that,
There is no God but one. For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth – as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’ – yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
(I Corinthians 8)
To say that idols have no real existence does not necessarily mean that they are not supernatural beings. Demons and devils who stand behind the idols exist and their goal is to lead us into the darkness and separate us from “The light of the world” Jesus Christ our beloved Brother and Lord. “This is the judgement,” our Lord tells us, “that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John. 3:19).
God, our Heavenly Father sent His only begotten Son to find us, the lost children of Eve, and leads us back to Himself — the God of all from whom we have been separated by sin, death and the devil. The first recorded words spoken by the Lord God are, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). Light is everything and Christ is the light sent to illumine our way as we journey through the darkness of this world. I follow him “Not as I ought but as I am able” because he is goodness itself leading me day by day into the eternal goodness of the living God.
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but he will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Written by Fr. Ivor Kraft, Associate Priest, and published in the Spring 2016 “Messenger”.
Photo: “The Light of the World” by 19th century artist William Holman Hunt.