Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

User guide to the Light of the World pamphlet

Roland Clarke

In the midst of a protracted pandemic how can we point people to Jesus as the light of the world? Of course, bearing witness to the light of the Gospel begins with actions (Matthew 5:16) and attitudes (Philippians 2:14). However, it must also be audible to be properly understood. We must use words to proclaim the message. (Mark 5:20ff; Acts 8:4; 13:44-49) Notice in the last Acts passage how the “word of the Lord” is repeated four times.

The Light-of-the-World pamphlet illustrates how we can share the Gospel message in a way that is “gracious and seasoned with salt” to quote Colossians 4:6. Notice in John 4 Jesus demonstrated how to use words “fitly spoken like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11, ESV) He started the conversation with a relevant topic of water, using it to arouse the woman's curiosity about living water. Having begun with the down-to-earth topic of ordinary drinking water, he then transitioned seamlessly to spiritual truth, i.e. living water, eternal life.

Likewise, Light of the World, begins with eye-catching good news of a proven way to kill coronavirus using an LED bulb that radiates ultraviolet light. Then it transitions seamlessly to sunlight and eventually to Jesus as the light of the world.

Let me share two conversations I had recently with cashiers while shopping. These encounters illustrate how one can make the most of the opportunity to season our conversation.

1. While paying the cashier for some groceries I commented about the worsening pandemic-lockdown. I encouraged her with some breaking news from three engineering professors who teamed up to make an ultraviolet-LED light bulb that kills 99.9% of coronaviruses in 30 seconds! She was surprised and intrigued so I offered her an article citing this innovative discovery. The article I gave her, titled, Light of the World offers several thought provoking insights about sunlight. It concludes by making a personal invitation, “Put your trust in the light,” Jesus said, “while there is still time; ... I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.” (John 12:35-46, NLT)

2. A couple days ago I took some colour chips from the paint store before choosing the particular colour I wanted to paint an old piece of furniture. The following day I returned to buy the paint. I offered to return the chips which the shop assistant accepted somewhat hesitantly, perhaps because of possible virus-contagion. I assured him, half-jokingly, “Have you heard of the new devices that emit UV-radiation which they now use to remove viruses!” He said, “I've heard about them but don't have one.” So I told him, “I've just read an interesting report telling how three university professors teamed up to make an ultraviolet-LED light bulb that kills 99.9% of coronaviruses in 30 seconds!”

He seemed impressed so I asked him, “Would you like to read more about this?” He agreed so I gave him a copy of the article, titled, Light of the World which provides a link to the innovative research by the team of three Israeli engineers.

3. Conversation tips: Ask, “Have any of your friends come down with Covid?” … (Perhaps you yourself know friends or acquaintances who've died from Covid or been hospitalized.) If the person doesn't have friends who've been infected, simply say, “That's a blessing.”

Of course, we're all hoping to see light at the end of the tunnel but it's taking so long that some people become calloused and couldn't care less, whereas others continue living under a shadow of fear fueled by ever-increasing numbers of Covid fatalities. For example, at the time of writing, the death toll is the highest in a seven day period! (25 January 2021)

We rarely hear good news nowadays, but you could comment as follows, “Recently I came across an encouraging article in the Science Daily reporting on some remarkable research by a team of three University professors. They designed an LED light bulb that emits ultraviolet radiation and kills 99.9% of coronavirus in 30 seconds!” ... “Not only so, they put the bulbs through rigorous testing and published their findings in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology!”

Does this seem too good to be true!? … Why not check for yourself. There's an interesting article titled, Light of the world, that acknowledges UV-emitting bulbs are not a quick fix silver bullet, however, they imply a vital clue that points to true light and real hope. I have a copy of this article. Would you like to see it?

Silver bullet?

Of course, there are dangers when using UV radiation to disinfect surfaces, as Prof. Hadas Mamane explains, “it is important to make it clear to people that it is dangerous to try to use this method to disinfect surfaces inside homes. You need to know how to design these systems and how to work with them so that you are not directly exposed to the light.” Likewise, it is important not to presume we can approach Holy God in a casual manner. God is good. He is the light and hope of mankind, but we must come to him properly with due respect as he is “a consuming fire.”

Pondering a paradox

The pamphlet, Light of the world, highlights two paradoxical truths which raise the question, “Can God be both merciful and also a consuming fire? And if so, how?” This paradox is captured in Hosea 6:3-5 using the imagery of sunlight.

Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” “What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears. Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth—then my judgments go forth like the sun. (bold font added)

Indeed, “sunrise” is emblematic of hope, not unlike the refreshing imagery of “rains that water the earth.” However, sun can also imply judgment, including even death. We see this in Revelation 16:8-9, “The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.” A footnote in the Faithlife Study Bible explains the sun-paradox in Hosea 6; “The prophet is playing on the imagery of Hosea 6:3 which indicates that Yahweh's coming to save is as certain as the coming of the dawn. ... the light comes, but in judgment.”

You may ask, “What's the point?” Notice, earlier in this paragraph how the prophet Hosea makes a heart-felt appeal: “Let us press on to acknowledge him.” He acknowledges that God disciplines sinners so as to restore and heal us; “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him.”

If we really want to know God we cannot just focus on his goodness and promises of a bright future. In order to receive mercy we must humbly acknowledge that our sin has separated us from God and incurs his wrath.

Hosea and Malachi declared that the sunrise will surely come … “The Sun of righteousness will bring healing in his wings ...” (Malachi 4:2, NLT) Again, after four hundred years, Zechariah the priest reaffirmed God's Messiah would come, “the rising sun will come to us from heaven...” (Luke 1:78) However, we should also bear in mind what happened to the apostle John when the Lord Jesus appeared to him “like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” (Revelation 1:13-17, NLT)

One wonders, “What is the purpose of a sharp, double-edged sword coming out of Christ's mouth?” At the final judgment Christ will pronounce condemnation (with his mouth) against those “who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. … This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire... They will be punished with everlasting destruction...” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9) This helps to clarify the deadly sun-imagery in Hosea 6:5 involving the slaughter and execution of the wicked.

It may be helpful to read Hosea 6:5 as rendered in two different translations:

“I sent my prophets to cut you to pieces—to slaughter you with my words, with judgments as inescapable as light.” (NLT)

“This is why I have used the prophets to cut them down; I have killed them with the words from my mouth. My judgment strikes like lightning.” (CSB)

All Bible quotations are taken from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

If you wish to correspond or ask questions feel free to contact me here.