Have you ever been in an utterly dark place? A few years ago, I visited my family in Papua New Guinea. Where they live in the middle of the jungle, the nights get extremely dark. It gets so dark, that on an overcast night, even the light from the flashlights seems to be swallowed by the darkness. It is equal parts eerie and horrifying walking through the thick darkness able to see nothing but the ground right in front of you.
When I picture darkness, I envision that light-smothering darkness of the deep jungle night. I imagine what it would be like to try to live an entire life in that environment without a flashlight. In the absolute darkness with no ambient light to even offer an outline or a shadowy clue as to the surroundings, I would be left helplessly groping around and stumbling over every object. It would be truly miserable.
Because of the frightfulness of the darkness, the early morning sunshine is both refreshing and reassuring. Rays of sunlight evaporate every drop of darkness, and with it the latent fears of the unseen and hidden. No one in their right mind having experienced that dreadful darkness would desire to spend their entire lives in it completely disoriented and endangered. Rather, having experienced the sunlight and having seen the beauty of the jungle, no one would dare desire to retreat again into the smothering darkness.
Seeing and feeling such darkness brings a vividness to the words of Paul in Ephesians 5:8-14. Those who were believers were formerly living lives that were disoriented in darkness. Groping and stumbling with no purpose or hope, they were dreadfully blinded to true joy and lasting peace. But God in His grace offered them His light and opened their eyes to see the truth and to see sin as the horrible thing that it is. Now, having seen the reassuring, hope-giving light, Paul warns the Ephesians to not become slaves to the darkness any more.
From this we learn a very valuable lesson regarding the Christian life. According to Paul’s admonition here in this text, it is not the nature of a Christian to walk in darkness. A Christian may at times commit works of darkness, but he will not walk constantly in darkness. Instead, a Christian will have fruit in his life. A Christian will be empowered by the Spirit of God through the truth of the Word of God to overcome darkness and produce good and righteous things.
Continuing the illustration of light and darkness, Paul explains how that those who can see will also warn those who cannot. Those who are in the light are called to reprove those who are walking in darkness. Hearing this, some Christians might say, “well, their sin is none of my business.” Paul argues here that if you are walking in the light, all darkness is your business to address and reprove. This must be done in meekness, gentleness, love, and truth, but it must be done.
If those who have seen the light do not show it to those in darkness, how will they ever escape the darkness? Some might answer, “but won’t the Holy Spirit show them?” To this, Paul says, “Yes, the Holy Spirit will show them as He produces fruit in you and through you. The Holy Spirit will use you, as a believer, to show those who walk in darkness that they are sinning and they need to depart from the works of darkness.”
So then we understand these basic truths – having seen the light we should no longer desire to be ensnared again by darkness; seeing others in darkness we should reprovingly share the light so that they might escape; Christ will help them escape their darkness if we are faithful to share the light with them.
Reflect: Having received “the light” is a privilege. What responsibilities do we have with that privilege?