Friday, August 15, 2008

Glorious Light

Last week, my dentist introduced me to a new form of oral cancer screening that utilizes ultraviolet light. Apparently the process notes facial skin cancers as well, because I was advised to use more sunscreen on my chin.

I can vaguely remember when a suntan was considered high fashion. Today, the fear of long-term damage has become so pervasive that some commentators are starting to worry about people not getting enough sun. Our local star is a perfect example of the "happy medium" being essential: no life would endure long on this planet without the sun's warmth and photosynthesis; daylight carries a sense of security and cheerfulness usually absent at night; the sun even helps human bodies get a healthy supply of vitamin D--yet too much direct exposure causes serious burns and worse. A few unfortunate people are so sensitive to the sun that they need full protective suits to step outside even momentarily in daylight.

Our relationship with the sun isn't a bad metaphor for our relationship with God, Who "is light; in him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5, NIV). Like the suntan crowd of the mid-twentieth century, many people casually announce they want to absorb "spiritual experiences" like accessories, to dress life up a bit. "God is a consuming fire" (Dt. 4:24, Heb. 12:29) is not frequently-quoted Scripture these days; the tendency is to regard Him as an indulgent Father who just shrugs off "little" sins. In truth, direct contact with His absolute holiness is as deadly as a flame to dry tinder for any soul tainted with the slightest trace of selfishness. If we entered His presence in our natural condition, we'd be instantly fried.

Were the matter any less serious, Christ, our Atonement, would have suffered for nothing.

The sun,
The brightest light we know,
Brings warmth and health and life
To all earth's creatures.
Should it go out,
The world around would freeze; no plants would grow;
All living things would die
With frozen features.

The sun,
Essential to all life,
Can also be a source
Of deadly danger.
Too much of it,
And skin will blister, tumors become rife
And often even kill--
And, even stranger,

The sun,
Our source of much-loved light,
Will give us far too much
For straight-on staring.
Its brilliant fire,
So dazzling, unequivocally bright,
Destroys the human eye
Within its glaring.

Our God,
The Source of life and light--
He Whose own loving care
Gives all its essence--
His purity,
If it should touch on sin, however slight,
Would burn with deadly flame
Souls in His presence.

But Christ,
The Son of Man Who came
To bring us all God's Light--
A wondrous story--
Bore Justice-Wrath
To wash us mortals clean of all our shame,
So we could walk within
God's perfect glory.

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