Christians and the Light of Christ in a Darkening World
By Mark Davis Pickup
Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 330-390) was one of the great Fathers of the Eastern Church and bishop in the Cappadocian region of Asia Minor.1 He was an ardent defender of Nicene Orthodoxy (Nicene Creed) against heresy. Saint Gregory of Nazianzus was an outstanding fourth-century theologian. Gregory’s prowess was known throughout the Middle East. He said:
Be cleansed entirely and continue to be cleansed. Nothing gives such pleasure to God as the conversion and salvation of men, for whom his every word and every revelation exist. He wants you to become a living force for all mankind, lights shining in the world. You are to be radiant lights as you stand beside Christ, the great light, bathed in the glory of him who is the light of heaven. (Taken from a sermon on the baptism of Christ.)
His profound words speak volumes to us, even now across the centuries. Nothing has changed. God’s greatest pleasure is still the conversion and salvation of mankind. In partnership with the Holy Spirit, Christians are called to holiness that makes them lights to a dark and sinful world. They become instruments for drawing humanity to Christ.
All humanity is called to conversion, baptism, repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness, and faith in Christ Jesus. Conversion involves the waters of baptism and water of human tears. True conversion involves the heart more than outward expressions of mortification. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 1430).
We are to remain in a world steeped in the darkness of evil and sin until natural death. Christians are to be sanctified bearers of Christ’s redemptive love and penetrating light. We are to be in the world but not part of it. We know this because that’s what Christ prayed just before his own crucifixion:2
I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world but that You keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth. I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.2
Saint Augustine (354-430) noted that the Christian is indistinguishable from other people in terms of nationality, language, or customs. However:
They live in their countries as though there were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labour under all the disabilities of aliens. . . . Like others, they marry and have children, but they don’t expose them. They share their meals but not their wives. They live in the flesh but are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth but are citizens of heaven. Obedient to laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law.
Augustine then said, “Christians love all men, but all men persecute them.”3
The blood of 67,000,000 martyrs during the last 2,000 years bears crimson witness to this truth. This may sound foreign to western Christians but we should not forget that Christians in other parts of the world are still persecuted and martyred. The time may not be far off when North American Christians will face persecution for proclaiming the Gospel message and Biblical truths. The 21st century is shaping up to be yet another anti-Christian era.
We should not be surprised if the world reviles us; it hated Christ.4 We are to respond to hatred with the love of Christ. This is only possible for those who, like Saint Gregory of Nazianzus said, “Stand beside Christ” and become reflectors of His light and love—even in the face of mounting anti-Christian prejudice, hostility, or aggression. Our proximity to Christ will determine our proximity to mankind.
Light of the world
This is why we are left in the world. We are to take Christ’s light into the darkness of a sinful age. Many people will not comprehend the light.5 The light will expose the dark deeds of people and they will hate us for it.6 But others will turn toward the light of Christ and away from the darkness of sin and ignorance.7
Whatever the outcome, those who love and profess Jesus Christ as Lord and light of the world will become a “living force to all mankind”—to quote Saint Gregory of Nazianzus. His words are as true today as when they were uttered more than1,600 years ago.
Cappadocia was a region of Cilicia in Asia Minor. It was the home of the celebrated Cappadocian Fathers: Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus.
 John 17:14-21.
 Saint Augustine in a letter to Diognetus, CHRISTIAN PRAYER: THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1976) p.1683.
 John 15:18, cf. 1 John 3:13, 2 Timothy 3:12
 John 1:4-5
 Matthew 10:16-18, 24:9, Luke 21:12, John 3:19-20.
 John 1:4 & 12, 1 John 1:7.
Mark Davis Pickup has lived with aggressive multiple sclerosis for over 33 years. Although electric wheelchair dependent, Mark has spoken across the United States and Canada promoting the sanctity, dignity, and equality of all human life. He has addressed politicians and legislative committees (both Canadian and American), university forums, hospital medical staffs, religious and denominational leaders, community groups, and organizations about the critical importance of protecting all human life from conception to natural death. Mark is also a widely published writer on bioethical and Christian issues. He writes a column for Canada’s Western Catholic Reporter newspaper. Mark is the recipient of numerous awards including the Monsignor Bill Irwin Award for Ethical Excellence, the William Kurelek Award for fostering respect and appreciation for the dignity of human life (Canada), and a Governor General’s Medal for Community Service.
This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at humanlifematters.org/2017/08/christians-and-light-of-christ-in.html.