July 17, 2019 • Life for Leaders
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 a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
In yesterday’s devotion we saw that Ephesians 5:11 tells us to avoid partnership with “the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” These deeds of darkness are primarily those done by people who live outside of the light of Christ, people whom Ephesians calls “Gentiles.” Once we were Gentiles living in darkness. But, we who have become children of light through Christ are now to expose the deeds done by those living in darkness.
Many Christians across the theological and political spectrum understand this to mean they are to publicly announce and rebuke what they believe to be the dark deeds of others. For those on the more conservative end of the spectrum, this often means denouncing “godless Hollywood” or inveighing against sins associated with sexuality. More progressive Christians “speak truth to power” by condemning corporate greed or opposing U.S. military policy. And many Christians, whatever their ideological leanings, indulge in criticism of the moral failings of others—even their family members or neighbors. In these ways and others, we who are light see ourselves as exposing the deeds of darkness.
Though one might construct a biblical case for these kinds of pronouncements, Ephesians 5:11 should not be part of that case. This passage does not tell us to expose the dark deeds of others by publicly denouncing them. In fact, the very next verse commends the opposite: “It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret” (5:12). Ephesians does not want us to expose these secret deeds by mentioning them out loud. There must be another sense of “expose” operating here.
In tomorrow’s reflection, I will scrutinize more deeply the meaning of “expose” in Ephesians 5:11. As I bring today’s devotion to a close, I want to raise the possibility that we expose deeds of darkness not so much by denouncing them as by letting the light of God shine in and through us. We do this by announcing the good news of God’s grace in Christ and by living in such a way that our light can be seen by others.
The “fruit of the light,” after all, is to be found in “all goodness, righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:9). It is not found in pointing out the shameful sins of others. So, even if there is a time for us to denounce the darkness in the world, our main task as children of light is to let the light of Christ shine in our words and deeds. We are to live in such a way that deeds of darkness will be seen to be fruitless in comparison to the abundant fruit of light that grows in our lives.
Something to Think About:
Can you think of times when someone’s exemplary behavior or gracious words “exposed” deeds of darkness?
When might it be appropriate for Christians to publicly denounce the dark deeds of others?
How might this action be related to exposing such deeds through good, right, and true living?
Something to Do:
Ask the Lord to shine his light upon and through you today as you go about your work. Live as an example of the good news of God’s grace in Christ.
Gracious God, it is a great privilege to be considered a child of light. Yet with this privilege comes great responsibility. I want to understand truly how I am to relate to the darkness in this world. I want to know how I am to “expose” the “deeds of darkness.” Help me, Lord, to avoid simplistic understandings, especially those that play into my own ego. By your Spirit, help me to grasp my calling as a child of light and to live out this calling in every part of life, in my private life and public life, in my work and my play, among my friends and among neighbors I don’t know. May I live as light in this world for your purposes and glory. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online
1 John: Walking in the Light
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.