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Forces of Light

• Greg Boyd

On the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Greg talks about how spiritual warfare is rooted in the war between light and darkness, and how MLK taught us to offer light in the midst of that darkness.

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Jesus is the Word of God – God communicating what it means to be God to the world. The Word is the Light of the world, revealing the truth about who God is and what God is doing in the world. Jesus is the light that anyone sees insofar as they see light. Jesus’s revelation of God, especially on the cross, is a criteria we can use to assess the degree to which any cultures religious writings and teachings reflect the light of God breaking through, along with the degree to which that light is suppressed.

Jesus, the light, came into our darkened world, and the light shined in the darkness, and the darkness couldn’t overcome it. The fact that the darkness tried to overcome the light presupposes there is ongoing conflict between the light and the darkness. The “light” is associated with “the way,” the light which reveals the path to walk. “Darkness” is always associated with deception, hostility, evil, death and fragmentation; it is associated with being “lost.”

In Scripture and in the Christian tradition, darkness is always the result of free agents turning away from the Light. The first turning away from God took place in the unseen realm, “the heavenly realm,” among the Powers. God had entrusted these Powers with “say-so” over aspects of creation and human society, and God hoped they would use “say-so” in ways that reflect his will and that reflects his light. But those Powers that rebelled and turned from the light now use their say-so over creation and human society at cross purposes with God, and in ways that bring darkness and destruction rather than God’s light and life.

The influence of the Powers as forces of darkness was something MLK was well aware of.  King said, “We must recognize that if we are to gain our God-given rights now, principalities and powers must be confronted.” We live in the midst of a cosmic battle between light and darkness. The call of the church, the body who know the Light of the world, is to commit to using our “say-so” in ways that reflect and expand God’s Light, and that oppose and diminish forces of darkness.

Once any human tribe, or nation, or political party, or religious community or race identifies itself as the “forces of light” and their human enemies as the “forces of darkness,” they will feel justified to extinguish others. They will sincerely believe they are carrying out their god’s will as they massacre their human enemies. But the enemy is not found in other humans, but in spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:11-12).

MLK put it this way:

Our attack is directed against forces of evil rather than against persons who are caught in those forces. It is evil we are seeking to defeat, not the persons victimized by evil. … The tension in this city is not between white people and Negro people, The tension is at the bottom between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.

It’s perfectly fine to passionately disagree with people. However, if you’re a Kingdom person, it is never okay to harbor any sentiment toward anyone that is something other than love. When we realize we are moving in the direction away from love and toward hate, we are also moving from the Light toward the darkness.

In the words of our Lord found in Matthew 5:44-45, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”

MLK applied Jesus’s teaching by saying the following:

We cannot, not in all good conscience, obey your unjust laws because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. So do to us what you will, and we will still love you. Put us in jail and we will go in with humble smiles on our faces. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hours, drag us out on some wayside road and beat us and leave us half dead and we will still love you. Threaten our children, bomb our homes and do all of the things of violence that you think will defeat our movement and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country and make it appear that we are not fit morally, culturally or otherwise for integration and we will still love you.  —MLK

Today, we must follow this call to love, even in the midst of darkness, offering light where there is no light, countering what is evil with love.

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Topics: Reconciliation, Spiritual Warfare

Downloads & Resources

Audio File
Study guide
Group Study Guide
Bless Your Enemies Card
The MuseCast: January 18

Focus Scripture:

  • John 1:1-4, 9

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…

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One thought on “Forces of Light

  1. Steve says:

    Shocking that vast majority of evangelical pastors were silent, even anti-MLK, in the 60’s; complicit in letting racism survive and thrive. Today, few quote him to appear “with it”. Yet rarely any repent of past or current denominational indifference- even those who quote him. Such denial, indifference, or pandering to church culture is anti-Christ. Complicity continues!

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