Growing up, I saw a lot of darkness. Some of my relatives, in particular, followed a mixture of New Ageism and what I’d term self-created spiritualism, heightened, I’m sure, by their frequent and open drug use. At family reunions, it wasn’t uncommon to find one of my uncles nearly passed out, stoned, on the couch, while others traipsed off, together, to get high. I first learned of sex through an “instructional” book owned by a relative—my memory says he’d left it on his coffee table—and also through piecing together overheard, crude conversations that should never reach a child’s ears.
Because of my childhood encounters, and some of my behaviors in my late teen and early adult years, I feel I have a vivid understanding of Ephesians 5:8, which states, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.”
As a kid, my elders’ actions made me uncomfortable, but I didn’t understand why. I didn’t realize their behavior was dark until I became an adult and connected with a local church. And suddenly, I saw every impure and shameful act, including those I myself had committed, for what they were.
I wonder if this was how the ancient Ephesian believers reading Paul’s letter felt. I assume many if not most of them had been called straight from paganism- known for its temple prostitution and lewd sexual acts- to an entirely different life, one of goodness, righteousness, and truth. In love, Christ had flooded their lives with light, and they needed to learn to live in that light.
I wonder if this transition was difficult, or if it ever felt confusing. I suspect it took time, perhaps a lifetime, for their worldview to shift completely. But that’s God’s call for all of us, those who come from obviously dark environments, like the Ephesians and I did, or those who come from the less obvious, but equally unrighteous, world of “works-based religion” as Paul had.
Once we’ve trusted in Christ for salvation, we’ve crossed over into an entirely new realm—the realm of life and light and all goodness. I’m not sure our culture is all that different from life in ancient Ephesus. When I turn on my television or hear snippets of pop songs, it seems people worship sex, just as ancient pagan believers did. Surrounded by such sin, it’s easy for the lines to blur. For us to maybe downplay the darkness, as if it’s merely a passing shadow, we can perhaps dip our toe in once in a while. But that’s not what God called us to, nor are we to live deceived by common perception or opinion.
We have one role model to imitate, one standard to follow, and that’s Christ. Light and darkness don’t mix. We, as God’s dearly loved children, become children of love, who actively display His radiance to a deceived, dark, and hurting world.
In short, our lives should look different, because now we are different! May we radiantly display Christ, in everything we do and say.