I leave my bedside radio switched on every night while it broadcasts BBC World Service programmes. For me a good night’s rest always includes a series of waking moments to visit the toilet. Sometimes when I return to bed, sleep evades me, or I deliberately resist slumber so that I can listen to the current broadcast.
One of India’s living dead
One night I just had to listen for twenty minutes to a 66 year-old Indian man telling of his eighteen-year conflict with the authorities of his homeland to persuade them to annul their record of his death that had been registered by an uncle of his when he was a teenager. This had enabled the relative to claim his nephew’s plot of land. India’s vast Civil Service would repeatedly dismiss him from their offices in central India, informing him that he was permanently registered dead.
He was happily married from the age of seventeen when his wife was then thirteen. And local inhabitants would frequently mock him in the street as a dead man. Even although Mahatma Ghandi advocated a spirituality of life, light, truth and love, it was evidently easier for him to achieve India’s independence from British rule than to induce these qualities in its liberated society.
Jesus had already claimed: ‘I am the resurrection and the life‘ prior to restoring dead Lazarus to life (John 11:25). He also declared: ‘I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life’ (John 8:12), before restoring a blind man’s sight (see John 9:1-7). And in the intimacy of the last supper with eleven of his disciples he assured them: ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). And: ‘This is real love,’ wrote John, ‘that [God] loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins’ (1 John 4:10; all references from the New Living Translation).
How teenager Jeremiah lit up his African village
How different was another BBC World Service broadcast I’d listened to about a week or so previously. Jeremiah, a millennial baby, grew up in Sierra Leone. In a neighbouring home another lad, while tackling his school homework in bed by the light of a kerosene lamp, had knocked it over and set the place on fire, causing the death of all his family in a heap of ashes.
At school, Jeremiah discovered electricity and by the age of seventeen understood physics. He decided to harness the kinetic energy generated by the regular daily footsteps of the few hundred neighbours through underground cables to capture it as electricity. Now, in August 2021, he broadcast his success to the world.
According to Genesis 1:3, the Creator’s opening utterance was ‘Let there be light’. And in his unveiling of principles of the kingdom of heaven (see Matthew 5:3, 10, 19 and 20), our Lord told his followers: ‘You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. So,’ he exhorted them and us, ‘let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise [not you, but] your heavenly Father’ (Matthew 5:14-16).
Let’s do just that!