I Thessalonians 5:4-5 “But you, brothers, are not in the darkness, so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.”
The point of Paul’s analogy is not difficult to understand. Those who belong to the night or the darkness can’t see. Those in spiritual darkness don’t see who God is, how he works, what he’s done, or what he expects.
This is not a small problem. A blind man is blind wherever he goes. Those who live in spiritual darkness carry their darkness with them into every perception and experience. It affects how they interpret their whole world.
Biblical ignorance is a major ingredient in this spiritual darkness, but it’s not the whole thing. Making people Biblically smarter doesn’t always make them better. If people don’t trust God when he tells them a behavior is sinful, how does the information help them? If people don’t trust God when he tells them the wonderful things he has done for them, how can they benefit from his promises? People who don’t trust God, who won’t let his opinion stand above their own, still can’t see. They are still in the dark, no matter how much Scripture they know.
We do not belong to that darkness, but its shadow continues to creep up on us. We still desire to set ourselves up as judges over God’s word: which parts make sense or sound fair. Wherever we set ourselves up as judges, the darkness is creeping back in. It casts a shadow over our faith.
That is not the nature of our faith, however. “You are all sons of the light and sons of the day.” Jesus once described his disciples as the light of the world. Our lives of love and words of grace reflect God’s love to people around us. They help people see Jesus.
But Paul isn’t thinking of something we do when he calls us “sons of light” and “sons of the day.” He is thinking of something we are. Before we shine, we have to see. Before we reflect God’s love we have to be people who have seen that love and received it ourselves.
This is what it means to be sons of light. Sons of light see their condition as it actually is. They don’t pretend to be super spiritual. They don’t go about like a man whose leg hurts terribly, but he tries to appear as though he isn’t limping. They know they can’t cover up what is broken. The cancer of sin is terminal. It has spread through the whole self. It has strangled the heart. And how do you cover up a dead heart?
Sons of light also see God’s love in all its glory. They know he didn’t waste time waiting for spiritual corpses to revive themselves. He started over with a substitute. He himself became that substitute. He lived a life of love for them. He died the death their sins deserved. He leaves no debt unpaid. He leaves no demand unfulfilled.
Sons of light know that the beating heart of faith is itself God’s gift to them. Can you imagine trying to do transplant surgery on yourself? It doesn’t work spiritually, either. But God has given us a new heart. It believes his love. It has eyes to see things as they actually are.
So here’s the difference between the sons of light and those who belong to the darkness: When tragedy strikes, those who belong to the darkness assume that God must have forsaken them. Worse yet, they suspect there is no God or he would have prevented it. But the sons of light know God must still love us. They realize the Lord disciplines those he loves. They see life as it actually is.
When considering someone’s eternal fate— heaven or hell — those who belong to the darkness consider only the life lived. Did the deceased get along with his neighbors? Did he give to charity? The sons of light are more interested in whether he professed himself a sinner who cast himself on God’s mercy. They know that “if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins (God) is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). They see how our eternal prospects actually work.
Because we know and trust Jesus, we can see. Live in his light now, and be ready when he returns.