Wrong Questions

Ephesians 5:8 “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.”

Observation: Paul has just encouraged the Ephesians to “be imitators of God … as dearly loved children … ” (Verse 5:1) We are told to be a “fragrant offering” (Verse 2), and to carry not so much as a hint of sexual immorality, impurity or greed … no obscenity, no foolish talk, no coarse joking. These things, Paul says, spring from idolatry and prevent such a man or woman from having “any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (Verse 5) Verse 8 sums the thought: we once were darkness (not like darkness or in darkness, but we were darkness itself), “but now you are light in the Lord.”

Application: Paul isn’t finished yet. He evidently understands how easy it is for me to read such a passage yet still keep my mask firmly in place. I am able to put on my best Sunday countenance and venture forth determined not to show such inner idolatry. But verse 12 reveals Paul’s fingers tugging at the mask’s edges, determined to rip it off in utter exposure: “It is shameful to mention what the disobedient do in secret.”

“How does he know about a secret life?” I wonder. “Who gave him knowledge of things hidden?” These are, of course, the wrong questions. They are defensive, revealing just how on-target Paul really is. Besides, the answer is self-evident: it is by the eternal, omniscient God that Paul knows these things. Hosea, commenting on the Hebrews’ history of building physical idols, mourned, “How long will they be incapable of purity?” (Hosea 8:5) From both Hosea and Paul it is apparent that impurity, whether outward or hidden, leads to my destruction.

I remember writing one morning well before winter’s dawn, my eyes drawn to the tree on my deck decorated with lights of the holiday season. Snow had fallen through the night, coating each needle with the purest of white so the tree itself was no longer visible; I could only see it through its fresh covering. Yet from within, the lights still glow. Radiance shines forth, filtered through the refining purity of its covering of snow.

This, I think, is how I become what Paul wrote of: “ … a light in the Lord.” Paul isn’t calling me to reflect His light as a dead, cold moon reflects the light of the sun. Instead, I am to “be” light in the Lord. I am to live as a child of light, as one who possesses it and gives it away to all who come within view. He is to so completely suffuse me that like the needles of the tree, I am no longer visible; only Christ can be seen.

Prayer: Lord, cleanse me of every impurity, every idolatry, whether hidden or visible. I want more than anything to be light in the Lord, shining as Christ upon all whom You bring across my path.

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