Summary: We commonly associate temporary blindness with bright light, such as looking directly into the sun. It seems strange, then, to read a scripture which tells us that we can be blinded by the darkness! Darkness makes the eyes more alert, more receptive.

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Rev. Mike Reed, Winter Haven, Florida

March 2014

1 John 2:9-11

1 John 2:14

Psalm 112:4

Proverbs 4:18-20

John 8:12

Luke 11:34-35

Psalm 18:28

1 Peter 2:9-10

1 John 2:9-11, 14 (New Living Translation)

9 If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. 10 Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. 11 But anyone who hates another brother or sister is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.

Sometimes a person makes a decision to do something that is just mean, disrespectful, perhaps socially unacceptable toward another person, and it just leaves you shaking your head and saying, “I can’t believe someone would do something like that.” When we lived in the little town of Coleman, Florida (pop. 874) in the 1990’s, there was a nice little wooden house on the main road into town that became the center of attention for everyone in town. The owner wanted to make a change to the house but because of some zoning law was denied the permit by the city council. In frustration the man decided to paint the house with awful, bright, neon type paint. It was hideous. He wasn’t even going to live in it, so the yard became an overgrown mess. It was one of the first houses you saw as you entered our quaint little town, and those who lived around it were upset for obvious reasons. Some of our best friends lived across the street in a beautiful house and they hated having that ugly mess to look at every day. Many times I heard them say, “I wish there was something we could do about it.” Most states enacted “Spite Laws” in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Florida, however, doesn’t have any spite laws regarding fences or houses.

“Spite Laws” prohibited people from doing things on their property just to be mean to their neighbors. These laws became necessary as incidents occurred across the U.S. with people building houses or fences to make life miserable for a neighbor. Here are a few accounts:

The “Spite House” in Alexandria, VA, is only 7 feet wide and 25 feet deep. Built in 1830 by the owner of the adjacent house to keep horse-drawn carts and people from using his alley. The present owners bought it in 1990 for $130,000.00. It is two-stories and has 325 square feet.

In 1925, a spat between two neighbors over a tiny sliver of land resulted in one neighbor building a “spite house” only 5 feet wide.

Frederick, Maryland. 1814. Dr. John Tyler owned a plot of land which the city planned to take and build a road on, connecting two downtown roads. He fought it, but lost. In his search for a way to keep his property, Dr. Tyler found an old law which prohibited the city from building a road on private property if a home existed or if construction of a home was in progress. The night before road crews arrived to begin work on his property, Dr. Tyler had workmen pour the foundation for a house. He poured the foundation for a room on the side so as not to leave enough space for a road beside his house. It’s been called the “Spite House” ever since.

States also have laws prohibiting “Spite Fences.” These are much more common because they’re faster and cheaper. Here are some examples:

(Go to pics)

Things like “Spite Houses” and Spite Fences” happen because people can’t work out their differences and somebody reacts in a less-than-Godly manner. These things probably wouldn’t happen if both parties had been acting more Christ-like and less selfishly. However, spite fences (especially) probably are built because tempers flare, words are said, and somebody just can’t bring themselves to simply make an effort to talk to their neighbor and resolve a difference. They have been blinded by all the unChristlike action and words thus far and all that can be seen is to build fences. Thus, the darkness has blinded them. The “Light” says, “Talk to your neighbor. Forgive your neighbor. Be kind to your neighbor.” But the darkness says, “Build a big fence and teach them a lesson!"

As I was reading the book of 1st John recently, a verse in chapter 2 jumped out at me. It caught me as kind of strange because it refers to causing a person to be blinded by darkness. Now we all know the account of Paul being blinded by an extremely bright light on the road to Damascus and having his conversion experience. We know how you can suffer eye damage by staring into the sun. Extreme brightness can cause blindness. But darkness? Darkness causes your eyes to be more sensitive to light – it doesn’t usually blind a person.

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