Light and darkness – personal thought from John

John at Scone

I want to say firstly how helpful this picture of the ‘armour of God’ can be, and secondly that it can helpfully be combined with another way of looking at our struggles as Christians.

Ephesians 6:10-20 emphasises that the struggle we face with doubt, temptation, fear, anxiety, defeatism is part of a universal conflict between light and darkness. We are called to remember this, and to take our stand on what God, through Jesus has done to help us to be overcomers. The victory is God’s, and we are empowered by God’s power.

Jesus prayed for Peter, as Donald pointed out – but Jesus knew that Peter would fail, and prayed that despite his failure he would not lose faith, or go AWOL from God’s army. This is a great encouragement to us in our failures. Failure need not be terminal, only provisional, since the Spirit of Jesus nudges us back into the light.

Here’s my recollection of reading a couple of books on Ephesians 6:10-20 :

I found the Christian warfare by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, which I read in 1976, unforgettable. The sermons it contains deal in great detail with Ephesians 6:10-13, discussing both the reality of a personal devil who attempts to bring chaos where God has created life and joy, and the reality of the victory over this persistent opponent in which Christians participate by virtue of Christ’s ultimate victory. I read chapter after chapter of this book with an increasing sense of joy and a liberating lightness of spirit. As my eyes were opened to the source of the smog of doubt which I felt was hemming me in at that point, it was dispelled by the breath of the Spirit and I saw more clearly than ever before the sun shining brightly. I recall experiencing a similar sense of freedom a decade later when I read Michael Green’s book on the same subject I believe in Satan’s downfall.

And I’m sure reflecting on the passage yesterday will have encouraged many of us.

And yet there have been times when I have not found that line of thought particularly helpful. It presupposes a self totally dedicated to God, standing together with others looking across the battlefield. Together we put on the armour; together we stand in faith, hope, truth, love.

But what happens when you realise that the darkness is not simply ‘out there’, but that within us there is the potential for doing every kind of evil, every kind of darkness. The arrows do not simply fly through the air towards us, they are let off by a traitor self?

If we apply the spiritual armour model to that, then we end up at war with ourselves, the light engaged with a protracted, dispiriting battle with darkness in our hearts. St Paul describes this in Romans 7:21 – ‘I find this law at work: when I want to do good, evil is right there with me.’

And fact is that the more we worry about the dark stuff in us, the louder it shouts back at us, the more we’re tempted to define ourselves by it. We pray, and struggle, but the dark stuff still remains.

In my experience, the way of addressing this is to accept that I am what I am. There is within me both light and darkness. I come as I am. ‘Father, here I am, light and darkness. I accept myself as I am. You love me as I am; teach me to love myself with the same grace you extend to me. I choose not to let the darkness define me; I choose to be a child of light, I choose to drink from the fountain of your life which bubbles up within me and of which I am conscious of my clearer-seeing days.  Thank you that you accept me as I am, just as your love accepts the universe with all its flaws. Thank you that one day you will draw the whole universe into perfect unity when the light will transform all darkness.’

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