Though Jesus said He is the “light of the world”, could it be that, when seen in context, He probably meant that He is the source of illumination in the world? Which means that He was not just an overpowering glut of light, but actually a filter point that allowed the true light of who He was to be perceived.￼
I realize that statement doesn’t have much context for you, so let me work this out for just a moment.
￼Reading about Paul’s conversion in Acts chapter 9 helps this make a bit more sense. It is ironic when you think about it, but Paul encountered the light of God on the Damascus Road and yet it was his blindness that allowed him to truly see God. It wasn’t light in a physical sense, it was illumination that changed Paul’s life. But that illumination required filtering. His blindness became the filter that allowed him to actually see with his soul.
In photography there is a small glass device that attaches to the end of a lens called a neutral density filter. Neutral density filters allow all of the colors and details of the scene to come through the camera lens and onto the sensor so a photo can be captured, but with one profound difference: it filters the light wavelengths coming into the camera so that glare and bright areas don’t get washed out in the photo.
ND filters allow you to take a clear photo of something even if the glare from the sun is causing the human eye to struggle to see the details. And it does this not by making anything brighter, but actually by filtering out some of the bright parts that have overwhelmed the details. The image will appear darker than the actual scene, but that is exactly what is required in order to see the details.
When Paul was blinded by the light on Damascus Road it wasn’t a case of the brightness allowing Paul to see what he could not have seen before. Paul knew the law, he knew Israel’s history, he knew everything about God that had been written down in the Hebrew Scriptures. It wasn’t a lack of information that had caused Paul to turn against Jesus and persecute the church. It was actually a lack of revelation.
There is a profound difference between information and revelation.
And sometimes, as frustrating as it might be to us, revelation does not come by becoming more informed. In fact, sometimes our lives have to become a little darker, a little less glaring, in order to allow us to actually see what’s true. sometimes the trials and difficulties that we experience serve like a neutral density filter in our life. It allows us to see in sharper detail, with more contrast and clarity, what is actually important.
This could very well be one of the reasons why James said that we are to take joy in the tests and trials that we experience in this life. Not because we love tests and trials, but because of the sharpening and illumination that they uniquely produce.
⁃ How many workaholics have trimmed back their hours at the office when a family tragedy strikes?
⁃ How many women have quit smoking when they find out they are pregnant?
⁃ How many long time believers find that after a challenging doctors diagnosis that their hunger to be near God is renewed?
Filters are important if we hope to actually see what we have not seen. But filters also remind us that what we have not seen is not necessarily new information, it is revelation that is illuminated through God’s grace to us.
No one wants to go blind, but if you asked Paul at the end of his life if he regretted being blind for those three days after the Damascus Road experience, what do you think he would say?