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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.”
This whole section of verses can be acted on in a couple of different ways. “Have nothing to do with deeds of darkness but expose them” might turn you into some sort of finger-pointing super hero for righteousness. In the context of everything else so far in this chapter, that just wouldn’t fit.
Camping season is about to begin, so all of the stores are stocking a zillion different kinds of flashlights, headlamps, lanterns, and of course all of their respective batteries. Lumens are the big sales gimmick this season, giving people a tangible number that must be important so people can use that to compare and decide what to buy. The most must be the best, right? Take my money!
But then, there is the sun. In laboratories, scientists have created lights that are brighter than the sun. What if you could take that camping? Or what about a laser? If you were lost in the woods, you’d rather have a flood lamp than a super bright laser that would burn a hole in anything it hit. (I know, that would be cool, but stick with me for the sake of the metaphor.)
Sometimes it’s good for us to expose darkness like a lantern instead of like a laser. Living a life of joy and peace in Christ shines a lot brighter than a laser of finger-pointing judgment. It is much deeper and long-lasting if my friend confesses his sin and repents because of how he saw me treat my wife versus me scolding him in shame.
Note that it says “have nothing to do with deeds of darkness.” That doesn’t mean people but it means deeds. It doesn’t mean that we lock ourselves off in a hippy commune of purity, but that we live our lives among everyone with humble integrity and holiness. That kind of life exposes more sin than a bullhorn ever could as it brings blameless and loving glory to God. That is the kind of light we want to shine. That is the kind that will dispel darkness for good.