Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Ephesians uses the graphic imagery of light and darkness to help us understand our relationship to the world that is separate from Christ. Before we received God’s grace through faith, we lived in the world of darkness. In fact, we “were once darkness” (Ephesians 5:8). But now, because of God’s grace in Christ, we are “light in the Lord” and “children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). As we live out our “lightness,” we bear the fruit of light – goodness, righteousness, and truth – and in so doing we please the Lord (Ephesians 5:9-10).
But how do we relate to the dark world from which we came and in which we still live? Should we continue to be connected with the people of that world, or should we withdraw into the purity and safety of the enlightened community of God’s people in Christ? And if we remain somehow engaged with the world that is separate from Christ and his light, what should be the nature of our engagement?
Ephesians responds to these questions in 5:11-14. Yet the answers in this text are often missed or even misconstrued. So in the days to come we will look closely at this passage and its guidance for us as we wonder how to relate to the darkness in which we continue to live even when we are light in the Lord.
Ephesians 5:11-14 reads in the NIV translation: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’”
As we read this passage, we sense an apparent tension within it. The first half takes a rather dim view of darkness and seems to suggest that we back away from it altogether: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness” (5:11). Yet the second half of the passage speaks of everything becoming exposed by the light and even becoming light (5:13). Those “sleepers” who are “dead” are summoned to wake up so that Christ might shine his light on them (5:14). Thus, the light shines into the darkness and even transforms it. This can seem confusing.
Today, I simply want to point to the tension in our passage and invite you to feel it, consider it, and pray about it. As you wrestle with what God is saying here, I pray that he opens your mind and heart to a deeper understanding of your relationship to the world that is separate from Jesus Christ.
Something to Think About:
As you read Ephesians 5:11-14, what thoughts and feelings do you have? What intrigues you? What perplexes you? What do you find peculiar, even distasteful? Where would you like to grow in your understanding of this passage?
Something to Do:
Take a few minutes to read Ephesians 5:11-14 several times, slowly and thoughtfully. Pay attention to what in this passage stirs your heart. Be open to what God might want you to hear.
Gracious God, God who is light, thank you once again for adopting me to be a child of light. Thank you for calling me to reflect your light into the world.
As I think about the world, dark because of its separation from you, veiled in the gloom of sin, I want to know how I should relate to this world. Help me, I pray, to understand more deeply what it means for me to be light in the dark world, so that I might reflect your truth, grace, and holiness in every part of my life.
All praise be to you, O God, because you have called your people out of darkness into your wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). Amen.