Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Light in a Dark Place

In 1938, in a Russian prison, about 250 miserable men were herded together in one small cell. Among them was an American journalist, David Braun. Soon David became aware of a Greek Orthodox priest in their midst. The old man had been thrown into prison because of his faith. His peaceful, radiant face made him stand out in that awful place like a candle in the dark. You couldn't miss him.

It was probably because of this that he became the target for the sarcastic and blasphemous remarks of two of the prisoners. They were continually harassing him. They bumped into him. The mistreated him. They mocked everything that was holy to him. But always the priest was gentle and patient.

One day David received a food parcel from his wife. When people are constantly hungry, receiving a food parcel is something that can't be described. David opened the parcel. As he looked up, he saw the old priest looking at his bread with longing eyes. David broke off a piece and gave it to him.

To his amazement the priest took the bread, broke it, and gave it to his two tormentors. “My friend,” said David, “you are hungry. Why did you not eat the bread yourself?” “Let me be, brother,” he answered. “They need it more than I. Soon I will go home to my Lord. Don't be angry with me.” Soon after that he died. But never again in this cell did David hear mockery and blasphemy. The old priest, a true servant of the Lord, had fulfilled his commission.1

When Braun finally was released from prison he would write of the priest, “He was a light in a dark place.” When the Bible talks about the impact that Christians are supposed to have in the world the imagery of light and dark is repeated throughout Scripture. In Matt. 5:14-16 Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Paul wrote in Philippians 2:14-15, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”

Remember the old Motel 6 commercials that ended with the reassuring words, “We’ll leave the light on for you.” I don’t know about you, but my mother used to say the same thing to me. When I came home late, no matter what the reason or the time, the porch light was burning. Its warm beams seemed to say, “This is where you belong. Someone loves you here. You are home.”

Our faithful walk of obedience to Jesus is like a beacon of God’s love and truth. Our lives and words are beams of warm light piercing the cold darkness of this world. We are like a porch light late at night, drawing unbelievers to Jesus, assuring them that Someone loves them and waits to welcome them home. Moreover, it doesn’t take much light to illuminate a dark place—all it took David Braun and the other prisoners to notice the character of Christ in the priest was a few crumbs of bread.

Perhaps a member of your family is still in the darkness. Maybe you’re concerned about a friend or co-worker. Don’t stop praying for them. Keep finding ways to draw their attention to the Lord. Be sure to leave the light on. Whether you're a candle in a corner or a beacon on a hill, let your light shine.

1. Gary Chapman, The Love as a Way of Life Devotional (Colorado Springs, CO: Water Brook Press), 135-36.

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