“Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going.” – John 12: 35-36
Many terms in John’s Gospel are richly meaningful. “World”, for example, means: the world/earth; the sphere of activity of humankind; and ‘the world’ as the people who are against Jesus. It’s fascinating to consider what exactly John means by, “God so loved the world that he gave his Son…’, that we might have life and not perish.” (3.16). God loves the earth, humankind, or those who reject Jesus? Or maybe all of that.
God so loved the world, therefore should we not care for it as the Creator cares for it, and so other human beings might not perish because of anthropogenic* environmental disaster? Maybe Jesus was given to the world that the earth might have life as well as humankind. Paul says ‘the whole creation’ is eager for salvation (Rom 8:19-23) and of ‘all things’ being reconciled through Jesus (Col 1:20), so why not?
In our reading of the ‘world’ as simply humankind, we glimpse how much humankind has elevated itself in our interpretation of ‘world’ as us, and only us. Does it not seem more likely that God has been planning from before all time for the redemption of ‘all creation’ in the fulness of God’s own time? Why would God want to lose what God saw was ‘very good’? We are living between the times as a part of God’s eternal plan; and so is other-than-human creation.
“Light” is another multi-layered word for John. It does, most obviously, mean the light we need to see by, but also the light of understanding. ‘I see!’ can be literal, or can mean, ‘I get it!’. Light is the place in which we do what God asks of us when we’re not trying to hide our sins. Conversely, when Judas leaves to betray Jesus, John says, “it was night” (13:30). Judgement comes when darkness is preferred, (3:19). For us, then, whilst we have the light of understanding of what is happening to our environment we need to act in the light and not in the darkness.
Of course, Jesus, who is the agent of creation (1:3) says of himself, ‘I am the light of the world.’ (8:12). This light is neither understood, nor put-out-able, by darkness (1:5).
As we walk through these times of environmental crises of many kinds, is humankind preferring darkness, and not ‘seeing’ creation as God did in the beginning, nor behaving as God’s vice-regents and ‘image’ (Gen 1:26-28) amongst creation? Are we not looking to the realisation of all that creation can be when Jesus returns as Lord of ‘all things’?
We’re being short-sighted, when we ought to have enough light for our understanding and be groaning with creation at her pain and looking for her redemption (Rom 8:22).
Where is hope? There is an urgent hope that humankind will walk in the light and bring creation with us, within history, and creation can hope we might bring our actions into God’s light before it is too late. But hope is also for a transformation in the fulness of God’s time when humankind will know the resurrection of the body, and there will be a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1). Pray, act and hope; we have enough light to see by.
* anthropogenic = humanly-caused, originating from human beings
Today’s reflection is written by Dr Rev’d Rosalind Selby. Rosalind is an ordained URC minister and is the principal of Northern College in Manchester.