I created this image a couple of years ago, but I came across it this morning as I was searching my Lightroom library. It’s one of my early experiments with a displacement map, which applications like Photoshop can use to distort an image using contrast information. For one of my first experiments, I like how this image turned out. I like the underlying photo on it’s own, which helps, but the overlay text just fits. It also speaks to my faith.
The New Testament calls Jesus’ disciples to “live in the light,” exposed and willing to be seen by both God and other people. This can be a frightening place, for when we are honest with ourselves our eyes are open to all the ugliness which the light exposes in our lives. And in this vulnerable spot Christians are called to respond in several ways.
First, we are called to repent of this ugliness and commit to living more conformed to Jesus’ teaching. This should lead Jesus’ disciples to live in a way which restores the relationships which may have been damaged by the ugliness buried in our lives – both by deliberate action and simple neglect.
Second, we are called to accept Jesus loves us even though our lives carry much that is ugly. This doesn’t mean repentance can stand still. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The love of Jesus for us is supposed to drive us forward into repentance, leading to the restoration of our relationships 1.
Third, we are called to look beyond the ugliness exposed by the light, and take note of what is beautiful in us. Every human being is created in the image of God, and no matter how we might twist and contort ourselves that image can never be erased. Each of us has gifts and talents to share, and love to give, which reflects the glory of the Creator. And even as we look at what is beautiful about us we are called to understand a profound truth. God doesn’t love us because there is beauty in us. There is beauty in us because our very existence is an expression of God’s love.
Someone might ask in response to these points, “If living ‘in the light’ is such an important point for Christians, why do so many look and act as if they’ve embraced ugliness instead of repenting of it?” It’s a good question, and the fact it has to be asked is one of the greatest scandals in church history. The sad truth is this, there are far too many moments in the history of the church visible where those who claim to follow Jesus begin to mistake darkness for light. It’s something I see throughout history, and I am sad to see it on the rise again. And in moments like this the call for Christians to repent is as urgent as it can be.
- Both horizontal and vertical. ↩