Should we bend with the culture or stand against it? And how does this decision affect our witness to non-believers? This week we are praying that we as American Christians will “walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).
Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
"Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you."
— Ephesians 5:8-14
I am afraid that one of the reasons why we as American Christians have tolerated sin in our lives is because we hope that we can win more souls that way. We believe we can persuade non-Christians to follow Christ if they think we’re “normal” and “like them.” And we presume that we will repel non-believers if we’re too “holy” and different in our lifestyle and beliefs. There's tension here, isn’t there?
It’s a correct desire, like Paul, to “become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). Paul said that he became like a Jew in order to win Jews and he became like a Gentile in order to win Gentiles (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Sure, Paul adjusted his cultural practices concerning matters such as food or holidays or language. But Paul never accommodated his convictions about sin and righteousness, right and wrong. In fact, the apostle plainly identified sin and warned us of its consequences.
Jesus Himself demonstrates the same duality. Jesus spent so much time with “sinners” that His critics accused our Lord of being a drunkard and a glutton. Yet at the same time Jesus Himself lived a sinless life and He called us, His followers, to a higher standard of righteousness than the religion leaders of His day (Matthew 5:20). He even said that we “must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
We can’t try to win the world by becoming “darkness.” Rather, they are drawn to the LIght. When we live lives based on the word of God and talk clearly about right and wrong, then many non-believers will “arise from the dead” and “Christ will shine on [them]” (Ephesians 5:14).
The American Church desperately needs this word from Paul: “Walk as children of light” and “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Our boundaries for Christian living have been gradually shifting over the past 50 years in this country. We have both compromised many of God’s standards in our faith and practice and failed to expose the unfruitful works of darkness in the church and culture. This is precisely why the kingdom of darkness gains more and more ground in our land.
Pay close attention to Paul’s commands. He not only says that we should walk as children of light but he also says that we should expose the unfruitful works of darkness. That means that we should both live holy lives on a personal level and also speak openly about sin and why it brings misery, pain, and death in this life and the next.
Jesus taught the exact same principle. He said that we, His disciples, are the light of the world. Therefore, if the world is growing darker, it’s not the work of Satan; it’s the lack of Christians. Either Christians aren’t in that place or they are not walking as children of light in that place.
Father, You know that our hearts long to see our fellow Americans turn to You and be saved. Forgive us for being part of the problem. We have not set apart lives in Jesus’ name. Refine us. Help all of us to walk as children of the light and to expose the darkness with humility and gentleness. In Jesus’ name we ask, amen.
Yours in Christ,
Chuck Hetzler, Ph.D.
Senior Associate Leader, Christian Union Day and Night
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