Light and darkness
This misunderstanding also applies to the Greek word, σκοτία (skotia), which has been translated to "darkness."
The reality is that Jesus is using these words in a metaphorical sense. We can see this in the lexicon's metaphorical definition of σκοτία (skotia): "ignorance of divine things, and its associated wickedness, and the resultant misery in hell."
In other words, Jesus is not discussing physical light and physical darkness here. He is using light and darkness as metaphors.
Jesus' use of darkness describes ignorance and wickedness. Ignorance in this context is the lack of understanding of God. Wickedness is self-centeredness, and this physical world, full of ignorance and wickedness, thus accommodates the "resultant misery in hell."
Oh, but aren't we afraid to go to hell?
Sorry, but we are in hell already. Hell is that place where ignorance of God and self-centeredness - wickedness - prevails. Hell, as described in scripture, is also replete with pain, agony, death and violence. A cursory review of the international news clearly indicates this world contains these elements. Every inhabitant of the physical world must deal with periodic pain, periodic agony, and periodic violence in one respect or another. And all of the physical world's inhabitants must deal with the death of the physical body.
And it is ignorance that prevents us from seeing the physical world as it is. We are so caught up in our self-centered search for happiness that we refuse to see all the suffering around us. And we tend to forget our own pain - thinking that we can somehow be happy in this world even though our bodies are quickly aging, and headed for death.
Certainly, some are in worse "hells" than others. A person born in a country dealing with starvation and violent bloodshed is certainly in a worse hell than a person in a first-world country with a job and a house. We still suffer, but our suffering may be coated with pain-relieving medications - which can eventually cause another type of hell. So why do some of us suffer more hellish circumstances than others?
Quite simply, because our current hellish situation is the result of our consciousness and past activities. The physical world is a place of consequence, and each of us must suffer the consequences of our past activities of this lifetime and prior lifetimes. This, in fact, is the equivalent of "going to hell." A person who causes the suffering of others is destined to suffer in the same way. Jesus stated this clearly as he spoke to a man he had healed:
“See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14)
Thus we can see that our actions have consequences.
This is meant to teach us. Just as "consequence learning" has become the scientifically best way of raising children, it is also part of God's design for our rehabilitation. And why should we be rehabilitated? Aren't we all "okay"?
Ignorance and wickedness
These two words - ignorance and wickedness - sum up our current consciousness in the physical world. Here we walk the planet in search of our own happiness. We want to make me happy. We want stuff for me. We want others to love me. We want money for me. We want success, acclaim, power and wealth, for me. It's all about ourselves. It's all about our self-centered search for our own happiness.
And through this search, we hurt others, and we virtually ignore God. The word ignorance is derived from the word ignore. We are virtually ignoring the Supreme Being as a people and a society. And those who do consider God only see Him with respect to ourselves: We want Him to give us stuff. We want Him to give us a good job, money, authority, prosperity and so on. Or we want Him to save us from the consequences of our self-centeredness (sins).
In other words, we may have joined a religious sect, but it's still all about us. Even when it comes to God, we are consumed with our own selves. If it isn't our prosperity, position and fame, it is our salvation.
This is ignorance - the "darkness" Jesus speaks of. We are ignoring the reality of the relationship that exists between each of us and the Supreme Being. What is that relationship?
The relationship we are ignoring is that the Supreme Being created us to be His caregivers. Our natural position is to love Him and please Him. He created us to share a relationship with Him, but while He certainly enjoys loving us and taking care of us, the foundation of our side of this relationship is our loving service to Him.
Are we surprised?
This is the foundation of any loving relationship.
Even when two people come together as a couple, the relationship is based on each person doing things that please the other person. From the very beginning, when the man presents a flower to the woman, the relationship is an exchange of loving service to each other. And the success of that relationship is also dependent upon the continuation of loving service to each other. If one of the partners stops trying to please the other and just wants the other to please them, the relationship falls apart.
This is in fact why we are here on this planet living in temporary physical bodies, removed from the Supreme Person. Our relationship with the Supreme Being fell apart because we became selfish. We decided that we no longer wanted to make the Supreme Being happy. We only wanted to make me happy. So we essentially 'broke up' with the Supreme Being.
So now we dwell here in a physical body that allows us to ignore God. We cannot see God with the physical senses of these bodies because these bodies were designed not to see God. They were designed to allow us to forget God. The Supreme Being granted our wish to get away from Him. He gave us the 'space' we wanted - to be away from Him.
So here we are, virtually away from Our Best Friend and Companion. We say virtually because we can never really get away from the Supreme Being. He is present everywhere through His expansive qualities. He is here as the Creator of this world, but also He is present through personal expansion. He thus dwells unseen next to each of us, simply watching, waiting and lovingly helping when we need it.
This has been spoken of in the Biblical scripture as the Holy Ghost, but God's expansive capability is not a ghost. His ability to expand Himself into the environments He creates is quite complex, yet simple for Him. Just think of how we can now broadcast television into millions of homes at the same time. The Supreme Being utilizes His own broadcasting method to extend Himself and be personally present for each of us.
The power of prayer
This is why we can each pray to Him and He will directly hear us. Even a thought about Him will be immediately heard by Him, because He can access all forms of energy instantaneously. God has no physical limitations. He is the Creator and the Controller.
While the Supreme Being has such power, many will try to utilize this power for our selfish purposes. Many teach about using God's power to become physically powerful, or simply draw off of His power to increase our fame or prestige. Many teach that we can use God's power to become wealthy.
There have been many "self-help gurus" over the past century who have designed many creative ways to attempt to use God to achieve wealth and success in life. Some attempt to utilize the subtle technologies of the mind, trying to convince us that we can do anything and control things as long as we visualize it within our minds. Others use this along with teaching that we use the "power of prayer" to achieve wealth and success.
These are all symptoms of darkness.
They are ignorance of our natural position as God's loving servants. Yes, God has given each of us a limited amount of power and control over our immediate physical environment. But we do not have complete control as He does. We cannot control the weather. We cannot control what happens to others. We cannot control the consequences of our actions.
We can, however, control our own direction in life. God gave us this ability - to decide which direction we want to take our lives.
Our choice for direction in life really boils down to two basic choices: Do we want to continue to pursue our own happiness? Or do we want to pursue our relationship with the Supreme Being?
Pursuing a relationship with God
If we want to pursue our relationship with God, then our course changes from aiming to make me happy, to wanting to somehow please God. This again is not unlike trying to develop any relationship. With any relationship, we have to reach out and try to please the other person. We have to try to do something for that person. It is no different with the Supreme Being.
In fact, it is because of our natural relationship with God that as we become frustrated with trying to make me happy, many of us begin to get serious about raising a family. We begin to get a glimpse of our natural identity as we give of ourselves to our family - and sometimes to a larger group such as our church or our community or our country. These forms of giving do bring us a sense of who we are naturally - being givers rather than takers. But these offer little benefit to our spiritual lives unless they are directed towards our relationship with God.
This is what Jesus was trying to teach those around him. He was trying to teach them - and all of us - to reach out to God and pursue our own personal relationship with God. He was trying to teach us that happiness does not lie in pursuing our own happiness. Real happiness is achieved by pleasing God and making the Supreme Person happy. This is why Jesus prayed:
"Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." (Mark 14:36)This is the "light" that Jesus was trying to illuminate our lives with, in order to remove our "darkness" of ignorance. And this is the crux of not just any relationship: It is the crux of our identity: We are fulfilled when we love and give ourselves - our whole being - to the Supreme Being. This is why Jesus' most important instruction was:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)