When I was in university, I would go with friends down south during our reading week break in February. We drove to California or Arizona for a few days in the sun. To get to either place from Calgary, we took I-15 south. It led right through the city of Las Vegas. We would spend one night in Vegas and I most remember the lights.
I was into photography back then. I would spend a whole evening walking up and down the strip trying to get pictures of the multi colored signs outside the hotels. We’d move on the next morning for the last few hours of our trip to the sun.
Now I haven’t been to Vegas since. That was before the slogan “what happens here stays here” came out. Even during the 80’s, there was a darkness behind much of the lights. They provide a great picture of a Biblical image of the “world.” In many contexts, “world” means the system, spiritual forces and people opposed to God. This world portrays itself with many bright lights.
Bright light attracts interest and curiosity. Look at your bright outside lights on a summer night and the swarms of mosquitos and flies they attract. But bugs often get blinded or burned by these lights. The same is true with the world’s bright lights. We are drawn in with curiosity and interest to see what’s going on. If we’re not careful, such light blinds us to the darkness behind it or the traps that surround it.
1 John 2:15-17 is a great little passage that strips away the veil so we can see clearly. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has done – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”
So how do we actually stop loving the world? How can we look away from it’s bright lights when they seem so appealing and interesting? There’s a hundred year old chorus that puts it simply and memorably.
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.”
“Lord, we live in a digitally saturated world where the visual dominates. We have been trained more and more to watch rather than read or think or discern. Sometimes, what we watch goes straight past our defenses into our heart. It appeals to our sinful cravings, the lust of our eyes or the pride in our hearts. So help us to turn away from that and turn our eyes towards you. Help us to see your beauty, holiness, love, power, mercy, wisdom, sacrifice and glory until we see you face to face.”