In Ephesians 5:8-14 Paul reiterates the power of light and teaches us how we can be a light:
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. 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 light. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’”
How are we to be a light to the world? By preaching to them? Yes, preaching is good, but it must be the overflow of a life burning for the Glory of God. Better still, we are a light to the world when our lives are more than words, when people see something about us that is indescribably different. This light should be shining out of us unconsciously because it is who we really are and not something we can turn off and on like a lamp.
In the passage above Paul teaches us that we are to “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Most people understand this as verbally speaking against all the evil in the world. They reason: “We are commanded to expose the darkness. Therefore I will speak out against the injustices, corruptions, moral depravities and conspiracies at work in the world.” This line of thinking can be very dangerous because it is often marked by zeal without the counter balance of the knowledge of God. Zeal is like a fire and if you do not know how to control it, it can be very damaging. In order to understand Paul’s command we have to read his next sentence: “It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” What the disobedient do in secret is shameful and should not be the subject of our preaching. Yes, we need to preach against sin, but preaching against sin should never be central, rather it is a means to lead people to Christ. Moreover, preaching against sin must be done in a way that is honouring to God and sensitive to the people. I have heard preachers give abortion a demonstrative broadside, but have hardly any compassion on the women who are weighed down with guilt because they have aborted a child. Mere preaching done in an accusative spirit is not what Paul meant by “exposing the fruitless deeds of darkness.”
So how then do we expose the fruitless deeds of darkness? We do it by bearing good fruit. If we merely point to a fruitless tree and condemn it for being useless, we offer no hope.
But if we are fruitful trees, the world will see how fruitless they are in comparison. The spirit of religion desires to chop down every fruitless tree, but cannot replace it with fruitful trees. Why? Because it is easier to chop down a tree than put in the time and effort needed to plant and grow fruitful ones. However, God has called us to the latter: to bear much fruit for his glory (John 15:8). Good fruit reveals how pathetic bad fruit really is. The same goes with light: light exposes how dark the darkness is. I never realise how dark a room is until I walk in it after being in the daylight––the contrast exposes the darkness. And this is how we expose the fruitless deeds of darkness by being that contrast.
Prayer: Father, let me be a light and bear good fruit. Let me not be somebody running around with an ax chopping down every bad tree. Rather, let me be one planting good trees and bearing good fruit, in Jesus’ name. I know your light will chase away the darkness, not my fleshly zeal.