Sometimes it is hard to recognize darkness. For it can come dressed up in a nice suit, pretty packaging, and a smooth sales pitch.
Because it is slick and alluring, it can be like a slight of hand. Causing us to miss that under the veneer of attractiveness and appeal, there is a sinister undercurrent of deception and abuse.
We see this play out in liqueur advertisements or commercials. Where their sole purpose is to convince us that if we drink a particular brand of alcohol, we will be guaranteed to have an impressive social life. But hidden behind these glossy adverts are the darker truths of addiction and health issues, spousal abuse, conflicts, and broken relationships.
Or we can see this in pornography, where behind the photo shopped images and imaginary story lines, there is the addiction, dissatisfactions in intimacy, and ultimately damaged relationships.
Or as we have recently witnessed all across the news and social media, where some men have misused their power and position to abuse women. And thought they attempt to justify their behaviour, spinning it in any number of ways, trying present it as acceptable, it still reeks of abuse, marginalization, minimizing, harassment, denial and deflection.
So darkness does not always approach us as darkness. It can try to mask itself as lightness.
Like wolves disguising themselves in sheep’s clothing.
“Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves. You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.” (Matthew 7:15-20, The NET Bible)
By using charming words and seductive allure, wolves can slip in amongst the unsuspecting and unprepared.
So it is up to us to become more attentive. Watchful. Listening. And not just in regards to our own safety, but also in regard to our community as a whole.
Communication is a major key. We need to be intentional with truth. We need to listen and affirm and believe another’s story. And share and check our perceptions and impressions and experiences.
Having on-going dialogues with our children. Teaching them about boundaries and what is honourable and appropriate. Role modelling and being examples of what is good and right and true.
Becoming more spiritually alert, sensitive to our internal radars, so we can quickly discern when all is not as it seems.
Being the light. For light illuminates darkness, transparency prevents the secrecy that hides the darkness.
Doing whatever we can to ensure that darkness can’t get a toehold.
Paul’s words beautifully sum up this alertness and readiness:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:10-18, NIV)
Photo credits: Dylan Hikes, Ariana Prestes, and Sam Cater, from Unsplash