by: Chrissy Muhr
It has been said that John is the Quaker gospel. It’s in John that Jesus calls his disciples Friends (John 15:15). John gives importance to women by telling the story of the first woman missionary – the Samaritan woman (John 4:3-9). And it is in this gospel that Jesus is referred to as the light.
That image of God as light pervades the writings of early Friends as well as the journal of George Fox.
God is seen as opposed to the forces of darkness. The “ocean of light” represents God’s love reaching out to humanity. Even though darkness seems to cover the world, the light is infinitely larger and all-encompassing. God’s love is a never-ending ocean that flows over the darkness and conquers it.
The light is victorious. The truth that God’s light reveals is able to shake nations, reform religion and confront logic and learning – transforming both people and society.
Fox sees that light and darkness are connected to what is within us. He contrasts the physical, outward lights of the moon, stars and sun to the spiritual, inward light of Christ. In each of us there is both darkness and light. The light comes from God and allows us to see what it is within us that causes pain, suffering, death. This light also allows us to see the life that is offered to us through Christ. As we turn more and more toward the light, the darkness within us fades.
This image of Jesus as inward light is the foundation for a uniquely Quaker faith.
Simplicity comes from the idea that we should rid ourselves of anything that blocks the light. If gaining or maintaining something takes up time and attention that should be given to God, we must simplify.
Because each person is made in God’s image and because God’s light is given to each, we dare not block that light with violence. Peace is not just about refraining from acts, words or attitudes that damage others. It is also about actively helping others to see and follow the Christ light.
Integrity is how we allow God’s light to shine through us. We must choose to align our actions with God’s light (obedience) so that the light within us might grow.
Being in community is another way to experience God’s light. As we come in contact with others who are allowing God’s light to grow in them, our light is magnified. As we live in community, God’s light shines brighter both within us and to those around us.
Finally, we treat others as equals because we see the light of God in them. Light has only one source – God. In seeing the light, we recognize that of God in everyone. We also recognize ourselves as light-bearers, no better (or worse) than others. By the light we see our own sins and shortcomings, but by the light we also see that we are cherished and loved as good.
“Let there be light,” God said, and there was light. And God saw that the light was good.