Note: This devotional was written for the Lenten devotional series for the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy in Moscow, Russia. I served as MPC chaplain from 2011-2015.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (NRSV)
Recently I traveled to Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa. During this trip I visited Cape Coast, the coastal city in Ghana. Nestled in the heart of the city is an European fortress which dates back to the 17 Century. The Cape Coast Castle as it is called was a central link in the Transatlantic slave trade. Thousands maybe millions of people from the African continent were dehumanize, tortured, sold like cattle, and imprisoned here. Women were raped. From this hell on earth those who survived were loaded onto ships and sent to the Americas.
I was moved, disturbed, and challenged by this encounter. Many questions swirled (and continue to swirl) in my head. How could people participating in this evil? How could Christians – followers of Jesus Christ – work for the enslavement of other human being? How could we and our societies ever tolerate such disregard for God’s mercy and justice.
Evil and injustice exist in our world. We are hurting and broken people. All have directly participated in oppression in others, while all have indirectly participated in human suffering. We are like the ancestors of old who were pious people who worshiped God on Sunday and destroyed lives throughout the week. In Lent we must be honest with ourselves and with God how sin and evil continue to permeate our lives.
Jesus reminds us in John 8 that he is the Light of the World. In the midst of sin and darkness, Christ is guiding us and helping us find our way. Sin and evil cannot engulf us as we seek refuge in Christ. Rather the light of Christ shines brightly for all to see, beaconing all humanity to come to Christ. By his crucifixion, death, and resurrection, Jesus breaks the bonds of sin, destroys death, and renews all creation. John Wesley – the founder of the Methodism movement – writes in his Explanatory Notes on the New Testament those “that closely, humbly, steadily follows [Jesus], shall have the Divine light continually shining upon them, diffusing over their soul knowledge, holiness, joy, till they are guided by it to life everlasting.”
Let us in this Lenten season rediscover the light of Christ. Let us realign on paths to follow the One who brings new life. Let us change our attitudes and daily habits to see the evil around us. Let us pray for those who feel the heavy weight of oppression. Let us work for justice in small and big ways. Let us recognize human suffering and seek to end it. Let us work to end human trafficking and modern-day slavery in our world. Christ be our light!
Rev. Matthew A. Laferty
MPC Chaplain from 2011-2015