Light and Fellowship in The Darkness

by Jason G. Duesing July 2, 2015

There is a moment in J. R. R. Tolkien’s trilogy where his fellowship is faced with the daunting task of traversing the underground mines of Moria. Once a noble and industrious empire of dwarves, Moria now is reduced to something dark and dreadful. Following the leadership of the wizard Gandalf, the company of travelers seek to move quickly and quietly through the darkness—yet without a map. The wisdom of Gandalf manifests itself acutely as he advises that, even though he, who normally possess a level of omniscience, does not know exactly how to proceed. He counsels that before “we make up our minds we ought to look about us.”

Not seeing much or many options, the wizard determines that the fellowship should “go towards that light in the north door.”[1]  The Fellowship following the light, however faint, proves essential to their successful navigation, not only through the mines, but also to the achievement of their overarching quest—to see the destruction of evil and the return of their King. 

In the real world of the twenty-first century, I liken the Christian’s sojourn through our contemporary culture very much to that of the Fellowship’s journey through the mines. That our culture trends toward that which is dark and dreadful is no surprise or even cause for panic, but knowing how, as Christians, to live and move within it in order to achieve our overarching quest, is often difficult and discouraging.

What is needed are regular sources of light—well placed windows shining at the right time and to the right degree—that allow those living in the darkness to see, understand, and move more freely in the direction of godliness. 2 Peter 1:19 is one of many places in the Bible that reminds that the Word of God itself functions as a lamp shining in a dark place for the express purpose of illuminating the Christian traveler’s path until “the day dawns and the morning star rises.” We have the Bible as a lamp to our feet (Ps 119:105).

Also, Christians are not meant to traverse this world alone. We are designed to need and require the wisdom that comes from traveling in a fellowship—and the New Testament makes clear that the home base of that fellowship and repository of wisdom is the church (Eph 3:10). But is not just a fellowship comprised of brothers and sisters, it is a fellowship joined with God himself (1 John 1:3). We do not plod along alone.

Further, Christians are not merely idle travelers hunkered down hoping merely to reach their destination unscathed and unnoticed. 1 John 1:7 reminds that “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Light gleaned is meant to be light shared (Mat 5:14-16), and the benefit of grace one receives in salvation is meant to serve as an instrument of transferable good news that calls others met along the journey out from the kingdom of darkness into light (Col 1:13). We are  pilgrim ambassadors for Christ.

Tolkien’s fellowship, searching for help in a dark corridor, found a faint source of light, and by it were able to move forward in their quest. As bearers of the light of God’s Word, gathered in local church fellowships joined and indwelled by God himself, believers traverse the darkness sharing the good news of the gospel—until evil is destroyed and the King returns.  

[1] J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 2, Chapter 5.