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What “Blind Faith” Is All About?

Blind Faith (No. 37, 2017)
Weekly Devotional for September 14, 2017
What “Blind Faith” Is All About?

Stories have power to direct our lives. Biblical parables are the prime example, but strongly directive stories can come from other literature, movies, or narratives from our own lives or ones shared by other people. Stories distill values, critical moments of inspiration, and determinative commitments. Stories can help to define who we are.

For this final regular edition of Blind Faith I am sharing again such a story. I identify deeply with its imagery. It represents what I have tried to do with these devotionals. The divine irony of a blind writer seeking to emulate this life-pursuit has given me great pleasure! My prayer is that you have found and shared that joy in your own life of faith.

I am continually intrigued by the Bible’s wonderful metaphor for God: ” Here is the message we have heard from Christ and now announce to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5 NCV) God is light. Moreover, God is as irrepressible as light: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5 NRSV) The biblical metaphor communicates God’s purpose very well: “We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. {6} For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:5-6 NIV)

That powerful metaphor for God leads me to reflect (pardon the pun!) on our relationship to God’s light. Jesus had utmost respect for John the Baptist (see Matthew 11:11; Luke 7:28). The gospel says of him: “There was a man named John who was sent by God. {7} He came to tell people the truth about the Light so that through him all people could hear about the Light and believe. {8} John was not the Light, but he came to tell people the truth about the Light. {9} The true Light that gives light to all [Jesus] was coming into the world!” (John 1:6-9 NCV) Reflecting the light of God’s salvation into the dark depths of sin is what God has always meant for believers to do, as the prophets clearly state: “Arise! Shine! Your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has dawned. {2} Darkness now covers the earth, and thick darkness covers the nations. But the LORD dawns, and his glory appears over you. {3} Nations will come to your light, and kings will come to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:1-3 GWT) Because Jesus’ light shines on us, we can shine his light into the world, revealing sin for what it is: “Where your light shines, it will expose their evil deeds. This is why it is said, ‘Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.'” (Ephesians 5:14 NLT)

This notion of our purpose being to reflect God’s light into the darkness of the world around us is demonstrated memorably by the following story of light. Robert Fulghum, author of Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, published a second best-selling collection of essays. In It Was on Fire when I Lay Down on It, he tells about a man named Alexander Papaderos, who grew up in a tiny Greek village on the island of Crete. When he was a young boy, his island was invaded by the Nazis, and hundreds of his fellow villagers were executed for daring to resist. Consequently, the people of Crete held a special hatred in their hearts against the Germans. After WW-II Papaderos became an Eastern Orthodox priest. He had a vision for building an institute on the site of the massacre to promote peace between the people of Crete and the people of Germany. If they could find forgiveness and peace, he reasoned, anyone could. Papaderos succeeded in establishing the institute, and became a living legend. One summer, Robert Fulghum traveled there to attend a two‑week seminar on Greek culture. Fulghum writes:
At the last session on the last morning … Papaderos rose from his chair at the back of the room and walked to the front, where he stood in the bright Greek sunlight of an open window and looked out. We followed his gaze across the bay to the iron cross marking the German cemetery. He turned and made the ritual gesture: “Are there any questions?” Quiet quilted the room. These two weeks had generated enough questions for a lifetime, but for now there was only silence. “No questions?” Papaderos swept the room with his eyes.
So I asked: “Dr. Papaderos, what is the meaning of life?” The usual laughter followed, and people stirred to go. Papaderos held up his hand and stilled the room and looked at me for a long time, asking with his eyes if I was serious and seeing from my eyes that I was.
“I will answer your question.” Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished into a leather billfold and brought out a very small round mirror, about the size of a quarter. And what he said went like this:
“When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.
“I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine — in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.
“I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child’s game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. But light — truth, understanding, knowledge — is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it.
“I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world — into the black places in the hearts of men — and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of my life.”
And then he took his small mirror and, holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and reflected them onto my face and onto my hands folded on the desk.
Much of what I experienced in the way of information about Greek culture and history that summer is gone from memory. But in the wallet of my mind I carry a small round mirror still.
Are there any questions? (Robert Fulghum, It Was on Fire when I Lay Down on It, 1999)
Robert Fulghum’s story helps me to clarify what I hope the story of my life will be. Can people see the light of Jesus in my actions and life? Am I reflecting the light of God’s grace into the dark crevices of injustice, questionable morality, belligerence, and other sin? What is the meaning of your life?

J. Edward Culpepper

This is the last regular weekly posting of Blind Faith. Occasional new postings may appear from time-to-time in the future. The online archive will remain available at blindfaith.fbchsv2.org
For some time. Thank you for reading Blind Faith during its run, and may God bless you and sustain you with peace.- Ed Culpepper