HER NAME WAS ARAI; SHE WAS A GRADE SCHOOL TEACHER IN JAPAN IN THE ?1940s. One beautiful August morning she let the children play outside longer than usual. Standing alone in the quiet of the classroom, she held before her eyes a sheet of white rice paper with her name, in calligraphy, delicately brushed across the page in black india ink by gifted little fingers.
A blast of light exploded outside. Arai ducked just as the windows burst indoors and a thousand pieces of hot glass soared over her back like a scream from hell. She arose to clouds of fire, dust, and smoke. Two thoughts fought their way through the chaos that bombarded her senses: first, the children outside were gone, nothing but smoldering rags in their place; second, she had burns on her face.
The teacher still clutched the paper. The black Japanese characters had absorbed the light and, instantly, burned away. Only the white paper, which had reflected it, remained intact. Throwing back the atomic rays, the white paper saved her from blindness; the light, though, that had burned through the black letters burrowed into her skin. In the delicate handwriting of a child now gone, the name “Arai,” seared in flesh, was stenciled across her face.
What an object lesson for those whose worldview is summed up with the words “the great controversy.” However often morality appears to us in shades, in penumbras, in ascending or descending scales where sometimes crude and sometimes fine balances can always be found, or at least rationalized and justified by the passions that filter the geometry of our minds—in reality the great controversy between light and darkness, good and evil, Christ and Satan knows no middle ground, no compromise, no synthesis.
One side loves us, one hates us; one longs for our eternal salvation, the other for our eternal damnation. Blessing or cursing, life or death; it doesn’t get much starker than that, at least not for beings like us who exist behind veils, some of our own making, some simply the makings of what it means to be fallen flesh that doesn’t live long enough to learn much of anything, except that we live behind veils.
It’s one thing to acknowledge the veils; that’s what moral relativism, skepticism, and postmodernism are all about—the veils. Except that for them the veils don’t cover reality; they are reality. For those who believe the Bible, especially the great controversy scenario depicted on its pages, the veils, though real, are still just that, veils. So we need by faith to look past them and grasp the reality they often cover, the literal battle between Christ (good) and Satan (evil). Perhaps that’s why the author of Hebrews writes: “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:14). Knowing what actions, what words, what motives are Christ’s, and what actions, words, and motives are Satan’s, that’s knowing the difference between good and evil. That’s knowing Truth, with a capital T, and why Paul warned about those who are “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7).
And when the Truth returns, in a blaze of light, some will embrace Him, crying out, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us” (Isa. 25:9); others—seeking only what they know, darkness—will cry out to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne” (Rev. 6:16). At that time, the veils are pulled aside, and all shadows, all shades of gray, vanish.
Arai, the Hiroshima survivor, was told that plastic surgery and costume makeup could erase the scars that darkness had burned into her face. She refused, choosing instead to leave the letters there, a memorial to the dead children.
Then there’s a different kind of memorial to darkness and to its cost. Ellen White wrote: “Our Redeemer will ever bear the marks of His crucifixion. Upon His wounded head, upon His side, His hands and feet, are the only traces of the cruel work that sin has wrought” (The Great Controversy, p. 674).
Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Bible Study Guide. This article was published September 9, 2010.