Whoever says, “I am in the light,” while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness. 1 John 2: 9-11
When we think about “light” in a spiritual sense, it’s usually esoteric. Light becomes synonymous with “good” – the polar opposite of darkness, or evil. This is useful and real. But, our light given by God also happens in many exoteric ways.
The light of the sun and other stars, the transformative powers of fire and electricity – these all are God’s gifts of light in creation. But, we too are a source of light. Researchers discovered in 2009 that the human body emits visible light – 1,000 times too weak to see with the eye, but still there, emitted by the chemical reactions of our metabolism. We emit, literally, the light of life.
To maximize the power of our God-given light, we’re told to walk in love – to love our brothers and sisters as God loves us. When we love, be it romantic, communal or compassionate, our bodies respond. Love causes a surge of dopamine and oxytocin, chemicals associated with euphoria, well-being and fulfillment. These chemicals also are believed to reduce risks for ailments like cancer and heart disease.
The opposite is true for hatred. Research suggests hatred and anger are poisonous to the body, increasing risks for cancer, liver and kidney damage, coronary artery disease and heart attack. When we hate, we walk a path that not only dampens our spiritual light, but also threatens to extinguish our physical light.
These physical reactions are not a coincidence. We experience euphoria and live healthier lives in the selfless outpouring of love because that is God’s design for God’s children. We wither – spiritually and physically – in hatred, because we are denying ourselves God’s light. Love is the way of that light, and we blind ourselves to its gifts when we succumb to hate.
God of light and life, help us today to live according to your design, to love ourselves, our neighbors and You with the fullness of self-outpouring love you taught us in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.