Colors & Christ

“Colors are meant to bring glory to the light.” – Josh Garrels | Colors

Take a second… Pause… Look up from your digital screen around the room in front of you. Just stop for a moment and take in all the complex color palettes that fill your vision. Or… well… for those of you reading this from a toilet seat it probably isn’t that complex, but you get the point!

Ok now… for those of you who actually followed my instructions this is going to sound crazy, but what if I told you that …all of those colors that you just saw don’t exist…

Wait! Wait! Before you close this page and write me off as a color blind kook hear me out!  I am not saying that you didn’t see those colors just that those colors do not exist in and of themselves…

Just follow me down this rabbit hole…

You may remember from science class way back in the day that light is a wave, and our eyes allow us to pick up certain wavelengths of light. When our eyes picks up a wavelength of light it is sent to the brain, and the brain interprets that wave length of light into a color.

Check out this fancy diagram I found:

VisibleLightSpectrum

Now go back and look at it again because it is important for later.

Notice from this diagram, that the majority of light can not be seen by the human eye. In fact it could be said that our species can only perceive a small portion of the light around us, but the light that we do perceive comes to us in a seemingly infinite amount of shades of color.

So you walk in a room, flip on the light, and look at an apple on the counter. Immediately you see the color “red.” What happened was the light struck the apple and then struck your eye. The wave length that was reflected from the apple was the wave length that your brain interprets into the color “red.”
getty-apple_large.jpg So I wrote all this because all the color around you from the red of the apple, to the blue in your girl friends eyes, to the creamy calico that the sky becomes nearing sunset, do not exist without light…  See, all these colors only exist as an interpretation of light in your mind. In fact, even in the perceived blackness of our universe, light is still present even though we do not perceive it.

So when I say “colors do not exist” what I mean is that colors do not actually exist unless there is first light.

Now if you are interested more in the science of this, at the bottom of the post are some links to some interesting videos on the subject of color and light.

So what does this mean for you and me?

Well, as a Christian, I love reading the stories of Jesus particularly in the gospel of John. Now, what interests me here is that the author of John frequently refers to Jesus as “light.” I would like to take the next few posts to talk about this interesting correlation between light and color and what it has to do with being a follower of Christ, but to kick things off I am going to take my first passage not from the gospel of John, but the letter of 1st John.

I John 1:5
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.”

I learned in Hermeneutics class that you always should put a passage in context before you try to interpret it (I should know, I took the class twice because I hated the homework).

The context of this passage is that the church, which the author of 1st John is writing to, is a church that is in total disarray. The church has just undergone a massive split, and in the first four verses of the letter the author is trying to bring the remainder of the church back into unity. Without me having to break down every sentence of the letter, this can easily be seen in the word for “fellowship” in verse 3 which is actually a Greek word that means “oneness in community.”  Ultimately as the church becomes more united with each other, they also become more united with God.

Now the author follows this spectacular introduction up with a  summery of what he has to say with this sentence:

“God is Light…”

If all the beautiful colors in the world around us are revealed in physical light, then all the beautiful colors in the world inside us can be revealed in our spiritual Light. Christ, Jesus (John 8:12) .

I find that all too often Christians (and I am including myself here) can get so fixated on the darkness. Sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking that in the world around us there is a distinct divide between light and darkness, between white and black, but what we forget is that there is an infinite amount of shades in-between (see diagram). We are not totally in darkness nor totally in the light, wholly good nor wholly evil. Every human in existence is caught in the in-between. In the infinite complex spectrum of colors found in the midst of the Light (Gen 1:26-27).

And regardless, no matter of what the loudest of street preachers may say, the Light is present and active even in the darkest of hearts attempting to reconcile it. (the great theologian John Wesley popularized this theological understanding called “prevenient Grace”)

Jesus didn’t draw lines; he built bridges. He found ways to engage with the supposed blackest of hearts in his community (the Roman, the Samaritan, and the tax collector), and to those who claimed to stand in the purest of light, to have the whitest of souls (the Pharisee, the Sadducee, and Scribe), he revealed the darkness that was in their hearts.

Jesus was the great equalizer.  

Our mandate as Christ followers, as those who love the Light, is not to spend our life complaining about darkness, but rather to reveal the Light and look for the Light where ever it may be found (Matt 5:16).

So my challenge to you and myself this week is to find light in the colors around you. Find the Light in that neighbor you hate. Find the light in the political party that opposes yours. Find the light in those “sinners” that you probably never had a meaningful dialogue with. What if instead of always trying to show everyone how perfect our perspective is, we paused long enough to try to see theirs.

I think that you will find that we are not all that different. I think that you will find that if you look hard enough you won’t find total darkness in your neighbors heart, but rather some sort of color. Ultimately, I hope that you will be able to glorify the Light that is revealed in that color, and maybe take the first few steps in a meaningful conversation.

 

The featured image for this post was the art of  HOXXOH, a Miami based street artist. He painted this mural on a buildings exterior wall near downtown St Petersburg, Florida. you can see more of his work at www.elhoxxoh.com.

Here are some links to interesting science videos on light and color:

 

 

 

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