For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:—Ephesians 5:8
This important passage in the book of Ephesians reminds us of what we are, and admonishes us to live accordingly. It says that we are “light in the Lord” (remember Matthew 5:14–16), and tells us to live like it! Just as there is a great difference between light and darkness, Ephesians 5 teaches there should be a vast difference between the way Christians live and the way unsaved people live.
Unfortunately, many Christians are being encouraged to blur or wipe out the lines between that which is holy and that which is profane based on the mistaken notion that we must conform to the world in order to win the lost. Isn’t it strange to speak of winning people to Christ by adopting their ways of thinking and living? Who is winning whom?
Ephesians 5 clarifies the issue of how we are to relate to the way others who don’t yet know the Lord are living. Read especially verses 1 through 21, and notice three principles.
1. We Should Not Do What They Do
Verse 7 says, “Be not ye therefore partakers with them.” The chapter begins by telling us to be “followers of God” and to “walk in love,” but not to live in lust. Love is about self-sacrifice and lust is about self-indulgence.
Then the Bible gets very specific about sins we should not be committing: fornication (relations outside of marriage), all uncleanness (sinful activity in the category of immorality, but short of actual relations), covetousness (strong desire for things that God doesn’t want us to have or hasn’t given us), filthiness (improper or dirty words or deeds), foolish talking, and jesting (in the context this would include dirty jokes), which the Lord says should “not be once named among…saints,” and “which are not convenient” (verses 1–4).
Notice that the sins condemned in this passage are listed in a declining order of severity. Christians shouldn’t do the sinful things that lost people around us are doing—and not just the worst things. As children of light, we should refrain from the lesser evils, too. If it is condemned by scriptural precepts or principles, or lies outside the realm of living for Jesus, we should not do it.
2. We Should Not Endorse What They Do
Verse 11 says, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Children of light should not only refrain from doing the deeds of darkness; we should keep ourselves from appearing to approve of them. As an example, not only should we keep ourselves from adultery and sensuality, we should not watch it on television or movies. There is a wide expanse between light and darkness. Christians cannot smile at evil without dimming their light.
Sometimes we are put into situations where our attitude toward wrong things might be brought into question. As Christians we may attend events that include activites which would normally prevent us from attending, but because of family relations or other compelling duties we go. In such a case, we are told to “reprove” the works of darkness (see again verses 11 and 13). This means that, as we receive discernment from the Lord, we may need to give a “disclaimer,” politely and kindly, and in a Christ-like manner, such as, “We are happy to attend or participate in your wedding, but, as you know, we won’t be drinking or dancing.” Such a disclaimer will not always be necessary, but when your participation in an activity will raise questions about your views on an issue, you can clarify your position with a disclaimer. Children of light have a duty to be clear about the issues of light and darkness.
The apostle Paul warned the Corinthian believers against eating food in the idol’s temple, lest, “If any man see thee…sit at meat in the idol’s temple…[and] be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; and through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died” (1 Corinthians 8:9–11).
People in a pagan land with limited knowledge of the Bible (whether unsaved or new in Christ) may think of eating meat from the sacrifices offered to an idol as an act of worship. You may know better, but your presence at the temple to eat such meat can be a stumbling block to them. Christians must always consider what their presence may indicate to others when considering whether or not to participate in an activity that could have questionable aspects.
3. We Should Not Even Talk about What They Do
Verse 12 says, “For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.” Children of light should back way off from the darkness. We are told to “flee” fornication and idolatry (in 1 Corinthians 6:18 and 10:14) by staying as far away from the sinful acts as possible. You aren’t fleeing something if you allow it to be a regular part of your conversation.
Ephesians 5 tells us that it is shameful for children of light even to sit around and talk about the wicked things that the world is doing. Sometimes we can find ourselves having a conversation about things we did before we came to Christ. Hebrews 11 tells us that if God’s servants “Had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned” (verse 15). Talking about the old days can lay the mental groundwork for going back. So children of light must avoid talking about the evil in the world, and careful about how we discuss it when we must.
People who love the Lord and want to follow Him must maintain a life that is distinct and separate from sin. Part of doing this is intentionally putting safeguards in our lives that keep us away from the darkness.