Exposing the Unfruitful Works of Darkness

In Ephesians 5:8-14, Paul says this: walk in the light, and shine the light. Let the light benefit you, and use the light to benefit others. He begins with a reminder that you were once darkness. This is important for two reasons: first, before you begin shining light on others, it reminds you that you are not the hero, the light-creator. You needed light yourself. Second, notice that it doesn’t say that you were in the darkness, that is, a victim of circumstance, but you actually were darkness. You were a villain, not a victim. Remembering that you were darkness gives you a clear-eyed view of both yourself and the darkness, and points to Jesus as the light of the world.

So then, remembering this, do two things: first, walk as children of light and eat the fruit of light. Fruit grows in the light and through the light, and light-children eat light-food. And what is light-food? Verse 9 mentions goodness, righteousness, and truth, which Paul will explain further on to mean singing a lot of Psalms. After that, Paul lists things like wives submitting to husbands, husbands loving their wives, children obeying parents, servants working hard and honoring masters. When you live this way you are walking in and feeding on the light.

But the second thing Paul instructs light-children to do is to not have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead, expose them. Fruit grows in the light, but darkness is unfruitful. Whatever fungus and mold does grow in dark places is not fit for light-children to eat. And so instead of going into the dark with a grocery cart, go into the dark with of those ridiculously bright LED flashlights. We are called as Christians not simply to leave the darkness and relax in the light, but to charge back into the darkness with a light!

But as we expose the darkness, we need to do so from the outside. Paul warns that it is shameful even to speak about sin, and it is very possible to get dragged down into the darkness while trying to expose it. This happens when we become talebearers or gossips, or when we describe the darkness in such a way that people are enticed by it rather than turned away from it.

So how do we expose the darkness? Here are a few biblical principles: start small, and slowly but inevitably go more public until repentance halts the spread of sin. Begin at home, exposing your own sin before someone does it for you. Husbands and fathers, do this for your family. Wives, do this for your husbands. Don’t forget lines of authority. Keep personal sins personal, expose public darkness publicly. Learn the difference between shining a light and digging for dirt. When the sin disappears, stop the broadcast. Don’t expose a sin that was repented of and defeated thirty years ago as if it were a current problem. We were all once darkness, after all.

Here’s another aspect: we automatically think of personal sins, but we are called to expose corporate sins as well, sins of our community, of our nation. This is one of the reasons why simply standing and praying in front of Planned Parenthood is worthwhile, even though the chance to change hearts and minds through conversation is rare. Our mere presence draws attention to the dark fact that every Tuesday, babies are murdered on West street.

This work of exposing the unfruitful works of darkness is something for all Christians to do, not necessarily whenever they have a voice, but certainly wherever they have a voice. Newspapers, Facebook, Twitter, personal conversations, sermons, books – these are all places where people in this congregation have voices. So post a prophetic woe about abortion. Tweet a gospel word about the Christ who saves from homosexuality. Say something about the materialism and selfishness that is devouring people in Annapolis. Parents, don’t just lay down rules for your kids; connect them to sin, and explain that Jesus is better. This is why Scripture says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you”: so that you will be encouraged to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead, become partners with Jesus in shining the light of the gospel into a dark world.

Posted on Friday, April 04, 2014 by CJ Bowen