Lately I’ve been observing my fellow citizens quoting the words of Jesus to justify their polar opposite positions, often leaving an unpleasant aftertaste even when they quote him correctly. But hey, the blood wasn’t even dry on the cross before people were using Jesus to promote their own agendas. As a child of the sixties, I am well familiar with culture wars, revolts, and protests. My generation was dedicated to the throwing off of every last rule. If you follow the trail of most any controversy it usually boils down to who gets to make the rules, i.e. who holds the power. But alas, it seems we now have more rules than ever. And we’re always trying to pass more laws, ordinances, and restrictions to make those darn people behave properly.
I have wondered what it means to follow Christ in the current paradigm. I’ve thought about how the early followers of Christ struggled to work out their salvation with fear and trembling in a climate of intense persecution—much of it from their fellow Jews. They had to forge their own path through unchartered territory. Consider the murderer-of-Christians who turned follower-of-Christ when he was blinded by a light that cried, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” To which Saul answered, “Who are you?” “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,” said the light. Paul was changed in that moment. He never tired of telling the story of his Damascus Road experience throughout the rest of his life. I have wondered: Did he constantly speak of the light that temporarily blinded him because it never dimmed from his mind or because he was grasping to hold onto that light through a blind future filled with persecution and pain?
As I grope my way into old age, I also go back to my original encounter with Christ. Back then I was minding my own selfish business when he intruded into my closed heart with his blinding light of truth. I said yes to an offer I didn’t understand, and still don’t. How could a man murdered during a wave of crucifixions and false Messiahs bring life to me centuries later? How could the same Spirit that gave the early followers of Jesus the power to speak and live and die for their faith guide me on a mystery tour through the 1960s and into the 21st century?
All I know is that same power still leads my faltering path with its blinding light—as I stagger to follow behind it. I know that the light of Christ cannot be dimmed by the perversions of society or the religious distortions of the church. The true gospel of Christ has been persecuted from every direction, yet its real truth is unharmed—contained safely within that warm blinding light. When anyone comes near it they fall down and tremble. They stagger like a drunkard and wonder if it could be the true reality of the universe. While they stop to ponder what it could mean, the light moves on—always beckoning forward through an uncertain present. If there’s any bad news, it’s that you can’t see the end of the path—but only because it is engulfed in blinding light. Do we, like Paul, have to be blinded in order to see?