March 19, 2023    Ephesians 5:8-14     “Imitation of Christ”

Paul’s basic formula, “Become what you are,” determines the structure of Pauline letters. The first part of his letters deal with “what you are,” what Christ has made the Christian.

This part is frequently called the “doctrinal” section.

The other part deals with “Become,” and is frequently called the “moral,” section. This text is

written to one of his disciples to Christians in Asia Minor around 90AD.

Using “light,” and “darkness,” as metaphors for right and wrong conduct is virtually universal, found in all religions.  Paul uses it frequently.

In verse eight, now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light: Christians are not “light,” in themselves, only “in the Lord.”. We are nothing, except what we are in the Lord, have been made by the Lord and our association with him.  Darkness represents evil and Satan; light stands for goodness and God. “Children of light,” is a Hebraism for “enlightened people.”

In verse nine, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.  So the light of Christ’s presence in the depths of the human heart is the “seed” from which everything grows, everything that is “good, that is “right, “ that is “true.” The Christian is the soil, not the seed. In Galantines 5:22 Paul calls these and other virtues “fruits of the Spirit.”

To please the Lord, Christ, is to gain his approval by behaving in a way consistent with what he has made us. The essence of Christian obedience is not the keeping of rules but living in the conscious presence of Christ, the light, and thereby developing an intuitive sense in each changing situation what Christ would approve of. Christ’s acceptance of us is a given. The light of Christ’s scrutiny is turn on to       “fruitless works of darkness.” His light exposes dark deeds for what they truly are. The Christian is not only to avoid such behavior himself or herself, but is to point it out in other Christians. I as a Pastor have seen people who think they are moral superiority pointing out issues in other peoples lives without removing the log that blinds them of their own shortcoming from their own eye.  Matthew 18:15-18 clearly outlines the process for trying to correct a brother or a sister.  Most people have no idea!

In verse twelve, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret.  That is in essence gossip.  The author made the point that not only are shortcomings and sins or vices of other are to be avoided and even talking about them is a no-no. Such unholy things should not be the subjects of conversation among “holy,” people. Certain topics are unacceptable. to be referring to the “due process” clause in Matthew 18: 15-18. When a Christian discovers another Christian’s secret and or shameful conduct he or she should deal with the matter privately first, not broadcast it to the world. Revealing other people’s sins for no good reason and in the wrong context is “shameful.” The revealer is shamed more than the revealed. In other words, that is more displeasing to the Lord than what the first sinner did.

In verse thirteen, but everything exposed by the light becomes visible: This is another version of a proverb found in Luke 8: 17, “For nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest…” John 3:20-21 puts it this way: “For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come into the light, lest his deeds should be exposed…” The point is that truth will out and the gossips and moralists need not make it their personal self-appointed mission to “expose,” people before they have had a chance to repent.

In verse fourteen, the author reminds his readers of their own Baptism, their passage from darkness to light and to say, “Do not go back there.” It is a common tactic in the New Testament epistles, when admonishing to do right, to remind the readers of their Baptism and to admonish them to remind themselves, whenever tempted, of the implications of that Baptism.

The author also appears to know that legalistic, moralistic people take too much “delight,” and shed too little light when they bring up other peoples’ sins for conversation and condemnation. These folks seem to transfer their own obsessions onto other people. They become obsessed with other people’s sins in order to avoid facing their own, frequently the same sins they are condemning in others. He reminds us all to return to our Baptism, to think about it, about how our sins were forgiven and about how our power to resist sin and evil was immeasurably enhanced. Thus, we are to avoid not only “works of darkness,” ourselves, but talking about such works in others. This message will not make self-righteous “Christians,” very happy because they seem to take such sinister delight in condemning other people, a delight and practice absent from what we know about Jesus into whom we have been baptized. It is that light, the light who is Christ, that the Christian is to shine on the darkness or through it.

By leading this new life, of light, the Christian exposes the evils in the world for the deadly and sterile things they truly are. We are to be the means whereby the light of the world sheds his light in the world – through us, through our behavior. In this way we “become what we are.”

Tell others what you see in them without condemning them, enlightening without frightening.

Our hidden obsessions come to light in our speech.

Christians are not automatically and magically morally better than non-Christians. In the realm of morality, “should,” is a very important word. One should do this or that. That is what morality means. It means should do. This is true for both Christians and non-Christians alike. However, there is a big difference.

The non-Christian is trying to arrive at a state of moral goodness, a state not yet real for that person. It is a goal to be achieved or arrived at through effort, personal, moral effort. The moral-minded non-Christian says to himself or herself, “I should do this or that,” if I am to become the person I desire and strive to be.

The Christian finds himself or herself in the opposite position. The Christian already is what he or she desires to be, already is a child of God, and already is morally good. Thanks to Baptism into Christ, being grafted onto Christ, incorporated into Christ, the Christian has arrived at the moral state of goodness, not through personal effort, but through God’s gracious gift.

Thus, morally, what a Christian is-is a given. Christians start from there.  Christians do not strive to become good; they let the goodness be. Christians can backstep, fall down a rung or two or more, even all the way down the ladder. And, thanks to Christ, can get restored to former “glory,” if they repent.

The light of the new creation, the light of Christ, shines on the darkness of the old creation and reveals to us what is left to do in order to complete the sufferings and the work of Christ, our salvation. As we do that in our own personal lives, others, those not yet Christian at all, can not only see how it is done but why it can be done, by whose power, by the power and light of Christ.

A pretty good external indicator of where we are on the moral ladder is our speech. Speech reveals what is going on inside. Words can reveal anger and resentment, otherwise hidden to the person in the darkness of the psyche. Words can reveal what obsesses, and therefore imprisons, us. Words can reveal judgments of others, jealousy, etc. And, words can reveal love, inner peace and joy, all fruits of the Holy Spirit. Amen.